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2023 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Hon-Chew Hee (1906 - 1993)
Koolau Mountain(Painted in approximately 1960s)

Oil on canvas

66.5 × 96.8 cm. 26 1/8 × 38 1/8 in.

Signed in English on bottom right

1981, Yin-Yang Art, Hon-Chew Hee, ed., Hon-Chew Hee Studio, Kaneohe, p.53
Private Collection, America
6 Apr 2013, Sotheby’s Hong Kong 20th Century Chinese Art Auction, Lot 520
Acquired directly by present private Asian collector from the above

Embrace the Motherland, Integrate East West
Hon-Chew Hee’s Cubist Yin-Yang Landscape Art

As a pioneer of the 20th-century overseas Chinese artists in America, Hon-Chew Hee successively established the Chinese Art Association in 1935 and the Hawaii Watercolour Society in 1962. He was admitted to the California Institute of Arts in 1929, becoming an alumnus of Yun Gee. From 1949 to 1951, he studied in France. His paintings show a strong style of Cubism, indicating the influence of the “father” of Cubism, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. Simultaneously, Hee creatively integrates the elements deeply rooted in his blood into his unique personal expression, including the Chinese freehand landscape painting, the Eastern philosophy of Yin-Yang balance, shadow puppet play and traditional drama. He used to hold exhibitions at Gallery Ariel in Paris and the National Museum of History in Taipei and was invited to create a 3.2-metre-long tremendous painting for Honolulu Airport in Hawaii.

When the Wandering Son Returns Home, a Masterpiece of Integration Emerges

In 1959, Hee returned to his birthplace and teach at the University of Hawaii. He had even instructed Jacqueline Kennedy. Hee has unparalleled insight into the geography and humanity of Hawaii and integrates these inspirations into his painting, which is embodied in the work Koolau Mountain. What makes this work more valuable is the application of “Yin-Yang Art” philosophy which Hee had continuously studied since the 1930s.

As a Hawaii landmark, Koolau Mountain was listed as a US National Natural Landmark in 1972. Hee depicts the scenery when the mount is veiled by the first ray of the morning sunlight: Hee artistically portrays the warm light of sunrise with the hazy orange-red lines, At the same time, the artist renders the lush beauty of the mountain ranges with emerald strokes in the shadowed areas. The painting produces the subtle and delicate scene of dawn, where the chisel-like lines appear as Hee’s symbolic sign of the Yin-Yang Art style. He uses these clean and concise lines to highlight the chiaroscuro between the ridges and ravines, emphasizing the geographical features of Koolau Mount in a visually striking way. Also, the audience may capture the elements of Chinese shadow puppet drama, paper cuttings and other traditional folk activities from the divided black shadows, which reveals Hee’s cunning manipulation of Yin-Yang space.

Price estimate:
HKD: 40,000 - 60,000
USD: 5,100 – 7,600

Auction Result:
HKD: 48,000



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