S. C. Yuan (American (born China), 1911 - 1974)
Portrait of Rae, ca. 1968-1970
Oil on canvas 36 in. x 35 in. (91.44 cm x 88.9 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Barbara and William Hyland, Monterey, California2008.90
Born in Hangchow, China, Si-Chen Yuan studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Nanking, where he practiced Western styles and worked in oil paint—as opposed to traditional ink painting. By the time of his graduation, China was in turmoil, caught between nationalist and communist politics. For a time, Yuan worked as an artist producing political propaganda for the Nationalist party. But, when the Communist party gained control in 1949, he left China. The following year he became a United States citizen.
Yuan was seduced by Monterey’s dramatic coast and moved there in 1951. He married in 1953, and the following year his daughter Rae, the subject of this portrait, was born. Rae is a quiet and lovely young woman in this painting; she was perhaps as young as fourteen when she sat for her father. In addition to portraits of family and friends, Yuan painted a range of subject matter, including still lifes, landscapes, and seascapes, and he experimented with non-representational abstraction. He painted swiftly and energetically, as friends recall, using broad strokes to rapidly render his subjects. He delighted in the interplay of color, which he applied thickly. In the Monterey beach scenes illustrated on the next page, Yuan captured the joyful sight of strollers enjoying the famous coast.