China #3, 1924 oil on board 19 1/4 x 16 1/2in overall: 28 1/4 x 25 1/4in
PROVENANCE: Collection of Louis Siegriest Collection of Robert H. Aichele, Sacramento, California
EXHIBITED: Oakland, The Oakland Museum. Moraga, Hearst Art Galley, Wonderful Colors! The Paintings of August Francois Gay, June 13 - September 12, 1993. Belmont, Notre Dame de Namur University, Wiegand Gallery, The Society of Six: American Masters of Color, March 11 - April 19, 2003.
In her book The Society of Six: California Colorists, Nancy Boas writes insightfully about the artist, stating: "In 1921 von Eichman shipped out of Seattle as an oiler on the merchant marine's S.S. Edgehill, bound for China. When the shipping line went bankrupt, he was stranded in China for almost two years." Eventually he made his way home, bringing with him a bundle of watercolors and oils.
As Boas states, "his China oil paintings are among the most successful of von Eichman's career, translating buildings, banners, streets, and figures into brilliant patches of color in flattened patterns that give the impression of abstract, Prendergast-like tapestries. Von Eichman's China street scenes follow the tradition of the flag paintings of van Gogh, Monet, and Hassam, with freely brushed banners in the city settings viewed from above."
"Regarding the structure of von Eichman's paintings," Boas indicates, "while Gile favored a focal point in his paintings and talked about the 'swing' of the compositionthe force of diagonals that carry the eye into the depth of the paintingvon Eichman attempted to give equal value to the whole surface of the paintingabandoning the single vanishing point and dissolving recognizable forms into colorful patterns."
One "aspect of von Eichman's work of this period," Boas notes, "is his empathy for poverty-stricken street scenes. Growing out of his own deprived childhood and reinforced by his teacher Frank Van Sloun's Ashcan school ideas, that affinity for street life would reappear again in his watercolors in the last twenties and his Harlem paintings during the Depression."
Two other oil paintings in the series, China Street Scene #1 and China Street Scene #2, are illustrated in Boas's book (see pp. 130 and 133).
Robert Aichele reminisces: "Very few major Bernard von Eichman works come up for sale. It seems that his paintings from the Society of Six period (the twenties) have been lost. This painting is not only of a very high quality, but also in excellent condition. I would be very surprised if another von Eichman comes on the market again that is as desirable as this one."