George Chann (Chinese/American, 1913-1995)
George Chann (Chen Yinpi) was born in Zhongshan County, Guandong Province, China on Jan. 1, 1913. Chann and his father arrived in California as Chinese immigrants in 1922. George Chann lived in a missionary orphanage in Stockton, California and by the late 1920’s had moved to San Francisco. He lived in San Mateo from the early 1930’s. His most important decision, to pursue an art career, was made thereafter when he moved to Los Angeles and began his studies at the Otis Art Institute (today the Los Angeles Art Institute) after having received a scholarship. George Chann remained at the Otis Art Institute from 1934 to 1942. During that time George Chann exhibited his work in the California Art Club, 1941 (solo); The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1942, 1944 (solos); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1942 (solo), 1943; De Young Museum, 1944 (solo); Foundation of Western Art (Los Angeles), 1945, the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery and numerous others.
George Chann excelled in his talent while studying under the great Edouard Vysekal and Alexander Brook. George Chann’s early artwork had its roots in the post-Impressionist movement. He initially created his own stylized landscapes and paintings of social-realism which included character studies of ethnic peoples (Chinese, Blacks, and Mexicans) he must have encountered in both his travels and his life in Los Angeles. George Chann’s artwork would depict a strong humanitarian message and a deep compassion that would carry him throughout his lifetime. One of his most dramatic paintings, which was to be Chann’s last work in 1995, depicts the Los Angeles riots that surrounded the Rodney King incident and the fires that resulted. To show the power of emotions, George Chann used both a representative and abstract merger of styles.
A whole variety of art critics from major news outlets took notice of George Chann’s enormous talent. Rollin McKinney, the Art Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), introduced George Chann’s artwork to many of the museums listed above and helped to open doors some of his most notable shows. In fact, George Chann was the first Chinese artist to exhibit at the LACMA.
The highly respected Alfred Frankenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle, critic Alexander Fried and Kay English, Art Director of the San Francisco Examiner both wrote excellent reviews of George Chann artwork after attending Chann’s first show at the Palace of Legion of Honor (1942) and subsequent shows in the San Francisco area (CPLH and De Young Museum both in 1944).
George Chann artist exhibitions in Los Angeles also garnered him numerous public admirers. Alma May Cook of the Los Angeles Herald Express followed his career and wrote several reviews about his obvious talent and developing career. The great art critic, Arthur Miller of the Los Angeles Times, and later Howard Devere of the New York Times, both wrote one or more articles documenting Chann’s outstanding achievements. George Chann artwork was also published in national magazines including Art Digest Magazine, Art News, and Life Magazine. George Chann paintings were also represented in the Joan Ankrum Gallery and the Heritage Gallery (Los Angeles) from the 1960s through the 1980s. Because of the promotion of his work and the glowing assessments in the press, George Chann paintings began to sell to prominent collectors from Hollywood, including the famous actor, Edward G. Robinson.
In 1947, George Chann returned to China and spent the next few years embracing his culture and incorporating his Asian culture into his artwork. While in Shanghai, George Chann met, Yvonne Chun, his wife-to-be. As the difficulties of the Communist takeover became more evident, the Chann’s left for Hong Kong in April 1949 where they were married. Leaving behind their embattled home, the Chann’s returned to the United States. Their daughter, Janet, was born in San Francisco, CA in 1950.
George Chann Abstract Expressionism
After returning to the United States, George Chann realized that the Los Angeles art scene had changed dramatically. In order to reestablish himself in the art community he began to exhibit new works at the James Vigeveno Gallery. At this gallery, the artwork of George Chann was unique. This gallery exhibited American artists such as Grandma Moses and Paul Clemens, but was primarily focused upon European artists such as Van Gough, Renoir, Chagall and Rouault.
Perfectly comfortable with the abstract, George Chann began to integrate his Chinese heritage into the predominant artistic direction of the 1950’s, Abstract Expressionism. George Chann took to this new style and began developing a combination of calligraphy and oils painted with precise individual strokes. Painting methodically, one color and shape over another, George Chann would often create collages of poetry painted on rice paper.
George Chann died in May, 1995 after having pursued a lengthy and successful artistic career.
Beginning in the year 2000, George Chann’s artwork and unique talent began a new trajectory. Major retrospectives were launched in Taipei, Taiwan. In 2005 another major exhibition was launched, a retrospective of abstract works, was organized in Shanghai. In 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong initiated an effort to bring the genius of George Chann to their Chinese collectors. This exhibit and sale titled The Trajectory of George Chann shows not only the artistic development of the artist but also the strong sales prices for the artist’s work through the years.