David Wu Ject-Key (AMERICAN/CHINESE, 1890-1968)

As a first-generation Chinese American artist, David Wu Ject-key's artworks project a profound imprint of the era. Wu was born at the end of nineteenth century and emigrated to America in 1902. There he received formal training from the Royal Canadian Academy of Art, the Grand Central School of Art and the Art Students League. Compared to Li Tiefu Li Yun Gee, Wu's works manifest a transformation of oil painting from classicalism to modernism.  Realism served as the backbone of Wu's paintings and he enriched the canvas in an impressionistic manner. On one hand, his accurate depiction of the relationship between light and shadow as well as the human body proportion demonstrates a robust academia approach. On the other hand, his free and loose brushstrokes and chromatic use of colours aligns with the impressionistic style. In one of Wu's exhibition catalogues, Warren Bower, who was then the director of Department of Art in New York University, praised that "[Wu] respects the truth as he sees it through clear eyes, whose strength is reflected in the colours and forms that he uses characteristically in his paintings".

David Wu Ject-key's landscape paintings fully embody the spirit of sketching, which was advocated in the European art world during mid-nineteenth century. With the advances in pigment production, artists could now carry portable tools and work at the suburbs. This encouraged the Barbizon School of painters and Impressionists to paint en plein air; marking the prologue of Modern Art. Impressionist painting emphasizes on the depiction of vibrant change of colours under the natural light – the movement was deeply influential in the era and in David Wu Ject-key's work.

 

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