My grandfather traveled quite extensively, painting everywhere he went. This map shows some of the places he traveled to, when he traveled there and a painting he did in each place. You can see through time how his style changed and what influenced him in different countries.
The Philippines had been taken over by the US from the Spanish in the 1890s. When Po Wan got there in 1926, they were trying to establish an independent government. The first cabinet of Filipinos under the US regime had been organized in 1917.
Po Wan had to teach Chinese part-time and made charcoal portraits and billboard advertisements to supplement his income and pay for his schooling. We have very few works left from this time period.
Hong Kong was always a bustling place. During the time Po Wan was there, Hong Kong was under British rule. It came back under China’s rule in 1997. Hong Kong was one of the most densely populated places in the world. The cultural identity is a unique mix of Chinese and Western influence. Po Wan lived most of his life there and drew much inspiration from life around him.
The New Territories were leased to the British in 1898 after the British already had established the colony of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula. The New Territories remained mostly rural even as the city of Hong Kong grew. Po Wan liked to go out into the countryside to paint. He would make that journey almost every week. One of his favourite places was Shatin district. He painted landscapes but also depicted the activities of the fishermen and farmers. He believed in painting en plein air. He would either do a quick “sketch”, working wet on wet in oil or he would spend two to three weeks visiting the same place.
China is a vast country with many beautiful areas and unique landscapes. Po Wan was invited to tour and exhibit in China many times. He painted everywhere he went including Hangzhou and Huangshan. Mount Huangshan is known for the iconic image of Chinese mountains we see depicted in much of the Chinese art. It is place of pilgrimage for many artists and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Canada is the second largest country and shares the longest unguarded border with the United States. It was a British and French colony until France ceded most of its land to Britain. Now it is a Commonwealth nation. Canada is a multicultural country. Immigrants from all over the world now call it home. Po Wan visited his children in Canada and finally immigrated there in 1975. He painted many familiar scenes to Canadians such as hockey or the Rockies.
All of these countries have influenced the subjects and the way Po Wan painted. He would not have been able to produce the same works without having been a part of each of these countries.