This paper examines the life and career of Pan Chunyuan, a leading artist in the Tainan area. During the colonial period, Pan was a painter of wall and door decoration in temples and was also active in the Taiten. His case is especially interesting because he had only a few years in the colonial education system, where most Taiwanese artists of his generation first encountered modern artistic trends. The more privileged of them pursued further studies in Japan. In either case, they went on to disseminate modern Japanese culture in Taiwan. Pan, by contrast, was self-taught and never went to Japan. Yet he became one of the most successful Taiwanese artists of his time. This paper argues that it is important to pay attention to the works of artisan-painters like Pan, their responses to new trends, and their use of techniques from their centuries-old artisan practice.
This paper starts by examining the many varieties of works in Pan Chunyuan's artisan practice, from his mounting shop to his temple wall and door painting. What was Pan's response to the new styles and trends he encountered in the official exhibition? With very limited academic art training, how did he use the techniques and subject matter of the artisan tradition in works reflecting Japanese taste? In answering these questions, I shall be looking at artisans who worked on a flat two-dimensional surface—that is, at paintings on paper, silk, walls and doors. The artisans who created these works were, in a sense, painters. Other temple decorations, such as sculptures, carving and crafts, are not discussed. The paper is in two parts: the first is a biography of Pan Chunyuan, including his profession as a mounter and temple wall and door painter, and it also looks at the diversity of subjects and styles in artisan practice. The second part is an analysis of the paintings Pan exhibited in the Taiten.