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S.C. Yuan is considered by many to be one of the most talented painters from the Monterey Peninsula. His bold, thick application of paint and his broad, expressive brushstrokes convey his individual style, and reflect the artist's wide-ranging moods and unique personality.
He was born in China in 1911, and studied under Xu Beihong, one of the country's most well-known artists, who painted in the classical French style. Yuan's own personal style eventually developed from a blending of eastern and western artistic traditions. His work was influenced by eastern elegance and economy of line, and he was able to convey a great deal of information with few, but strategically placed, brushstrokes. Simultaneously, his work also displayed the energy of Western-style abstraction.
Along with his artistic talents, he was also proficient as a chef. He left China and moved to Jamaica in 1949, and worked as a cook at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco in 1950. He eventually opened his own restaurant on Cannery Row in Monterey. In 1969, he opened his restaurant, the "Merry Peach", in Carmel Valley, where he displayed many of his paintings.
He lived for 25 years on the Monterey Peninsula, and had his first art exhibition at the Monterey Defense Language Institute in 1953, where he worked as a teacher. Within several years his wife, Jen-Chi, became the primary means of support for the Yuan family, as the artist focused on the opening of his own art gallery in Monterey, while becoming an influential and important member of the Carmel Art Association. His paintings were greatly admired by other contemporary artists in the area, and he was often referred to as a "painter's painter".
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's he entered his work in numerous shows and won many awards, including Best of Show at the Monterey County Fair in 1967. Towards the end of the decade, he had his first one-man show at the Carmel Art Association, and his style became much looser and more impressionistic.
During the 1960's, he led an increasingly lavish lifestyle, traveling to Europe, secretly borrowing from banks and purchasing extravagant cars, though his income couldn't really accommodate his spending habits. He once traveled to Europe, bringing his own Cadillac, which he later shipped back to the United States when he realized it didn't fit in the narrow streets of the small towns he was visiting. His moods varied widely, from exuberant and energetic, to despondent and withdrawn. When his second-born child died in 1958, he stopped painting for months. His behavior was sometimes erratic and unexpected, and he was occasionally seen barging into other galleries to sabotage sales in progress. He once started a bonfire in his own yard, setting a pile of paintings on fire.
S.C. Yuan died on the Monterey Peninsula in 1974. Today, his paintings are instantly recognizable, unconventional, intensely personal, honest, and deeply valued by his many collectors and admirers worldwide.