Long-lost iconic nude sculpture to be displayed in Taipei

10/15/2021 07:23 PM
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Photo courtesy of the Museum of National Taipei University of Education.
Photo courtesy of the Museum of National Taipei University of Education.

Taipei, Oct. 15 (CNA) An iconic sculpture, which was lost for over half a century and is believed to be the first recorded nude statue in Taiwan’s art history, will be displayed in public for the first time later this year in Taipei, the Ministry of Culture announced Thursday.

The groundbreaking work, "Sweet Dew," by late Taiwanese sculptor Huang Tu-shui's (黃土水, 1895-1930), is set to be exhibited at the Museum of National Taipei University of Education (MoNTUE), with a tentative date set for December.

Praised as Taiwan’s Venus, the marble sculpture portrays a young woman, with a calm yet confident countenance, standing upright with her head tilted slightly backwards and both hands holding either side of a large shell behind her.

"It radiates an uplifting spirit, and is being imbued with the artist's imagination and anticipation for societal progress in Taiwan, marking a new chapter in Taiwanese art history," the Culture Ministry wrote on its Facebook page.

The 1.75 meter tall sculpture was discovered earlier this year, 50 years after it was last seen, by Professor Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗) from National Taipei University of Education and her team, according to the museum.

Lin searched for the work for 20 years. It was donated to the Ministry of Culture in September 2021, exactly a century after being completed and will be included in an upcoming exhibition at the MoNTUE.

"It is an explosive discovery," Lin Chen-ching (林振莖), an assistant research fellow at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, told United Daily News on Friday, upon seeing photos of the newly found statue.

Although modeled after the classic image of "The Birth of Venus," "Sweet Dew" reinterprets the goddess with a Taiwanese female form, ushering in a new art landscape for a new generation, as well as stunning the world with its eye-catching beauty, Lin Chen-ching said.

Created in 1921, the statue, named "Gan Lushui" (甘露水) in Chinese, was the second work by sculptor Huang Tu-shui to be displayed at the Imperial Art Exhibition in Japan, the most prestigious art event in the country at the time, where it received critical acclaim.

Born in 1895 in Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule, Huang was an iconic sculptor and the first Taiwanese artist to participate in the Imperial Art Exhibition in Japan. His works blend modern Western style with traditional Chinese elements.

"Sweet Dew” was collected by The Taiwan Education Association (now 228 Memorial Museum) in 1931, a year after Huang died of peritonitis, and displayed in a posthumous exhibition, according to the Ministry of Culture.

However, it was later abandoned at Taichung railway station for unknown reasons in 1958, the ministry said.

Fortunately, the work was saved by a local family surnamed Chang and kept in the nearby family clinic, though it was later moved to a factory in Wufeng, Taichung, in 1974, where it remained until being discovered by Professor Lin, according to the ministry.

Another important work by Huang, "Bust of a Girl," was restored and showcased as a signature display at the MoNTUE last year in an exhibition named "The Everlasting Bloom," curated by Lin Mun-lee.

The statue was originally given to Taiping Elementary School in Taipei by the artist. The exhibition attracted nearly 50,000 visitors and was one of the most successful exhibitions in Taiwan in 2020.

Among other representative works by Huang are "The Chubby Playing Boy," his first work to be shown at the Imperial Art Exhibition, and "Water Buffalo," displayed at Zhongshan Hall in Taipei.

(By Ken Wang)

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