Madame Chiang Kai-shek (1948 – 1975) was an avid artist and a lifelong patron of the arts. Lesser known however, is her studious undertake of classic Chinese ink paintings under the guidance of revered painter Huang Chun-pi (1898 – 1991), one of the pioneers of the New Chinese Classical Art movement.
Born in Guangdong, Huang first started to study Chinese paintings in 1915, and soon entered the Chuting School of Art to study Western paintings. Later, he became the head of academic affairs at the Guangzhou Municipal Art College (now Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts) in 1927. In 1937, he became an art professor at the Nanjing Central University.
In 1949, he moved to Taiwan and became director of the Department of Art at the National Taiwan Normal University. In order to promote Chinese culture and paintings, he often traveled to Europe and the United States and enjoyed a strong reputation by teaching and organizing painting events there.
Huang preached and practiced a three-step program for refining one’s Chinese ink wash paintings: observe and study the classics, travel far and explore new sights and scenes, and translate new experiences and observations onto the canvas. His teachings emphasized the importance of light and dark, and the texture of mountains, forests, stones, and cascading waters.
Madame Chiang, who was at the time First Lady of the Republic of China, sought out Huang after his relocation to Taiwan in 1949, and greatly impressed the veteran artist with her wit and determination.
Some of the best-known anecdotes include Madame Chiang's great respect for her teacher, which manifested in subtle details such providing a palanquin for the aging Huang whenever they ventured into the mountains for nature sketches, and providing his favorite fish, the large yellow croaker, whenever it was in supply.
More information on the illustrious artist, who was reverently known as a "national master" of the arts until his death in 1991, can be found here.