Wang Pan-Youn China, 1909-2017

Born in 1908 in Jiangsu, China


Born into a prominent family in Jiangsu, Wang Pan-Youn lost his parents when he was young, and endured a tumultuous childhood. He was enrolled in law school at the Fudan University in 1933, but chose to study at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts the following year due to his interest in art making. He studied under seminal artists such as Pan Yuliang, Liu Haisu, and Pan Tianshou, and became proficient in ink, watercolor, and oil, waltzing between Chinese tradition and Western modernism. His plans of pursuing education in France upon graduation was disrupted by the Sino-Japanese War. He ended up relocating to Taiwan with his family with the Kuomintang government in 1949. Settling first in Kaohsiung, he became a temporary dock porter to make ends meet before moving to Yilan as an art teacher. It was not until he cofounded the Lanyang Painting Association with a group of friends in 1961 that he began garnering attention for his work, and gradually became one of the pivotal figures in Taiwan’s art circle. He received the National Award for Arts in 2001, cementing his legacy in Taiwan’s art history. He passed away in 2017 in Yilan, Taiwan at the age of 109.


Permeated with an enduring sense of nostalgia, Wang Pan-Youn’s work mirrors the turbulent times he lived through. He projects himself as solitary animals, humans, sails, or houses in his painting, against a backdrop evocative of Yilan and Jiangsu. Personal struggle and emotional suffering imbue the artist’s work, embodied through a minimal composition and a succinct palette. The subject in his painting is reduced to a distorted form closely reflective of his mentality. The forlorn artistic language speaks a wistful dream where home is a distant memory, a lifetime of displacement a haunting evanescence.