S.C. Yuan Biography



Born in Hangchow, China.  From earliest childhood Yuan was fond of painting and drawing.  His formal studies began in high school with basic black and white drawings.  Furthering his art training he was much inspired by his teacher, Professor Peon Ju, an internationally known figure in Paris for more than a decade. Ju was founder of the academic school in China as well as being a leading contemporary master of the period. During his years of study with Professor Ju in the Central University, Nanking, he was given the finest possible training.  This led directly to his developing a masterly technique of his own.  Even though profoundly influenced by Ju, Yuan’s own special style began to emerge. It was precisely his elimination of the conclusive aspects of photo realism that gave his work its distinctive, ultimate originality.

Yuan grew up in a difficult period of modern history. China was going through endless civil war and revolution followed by the Sino-Japanese War and World War II.  During this time he worked as an artist in the cultural department for the Nationalists and as a liaison interpreter for the U.S. Air Force. While in Shanghai Yuan adopted the English name Wellington. With the Communists taking control of the country, he left China for Jamaica in 1949. The following year he moved to San Francisco to work as a cook at the Fairmont Hotel. In 1952 he settled on the Monterey Peninsula where for a brief period he taught Mandarin Chinese at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio. He left the school in 1955 to paint full time.

His obsession for painting once again dominated his life and no matter what else he did, he had to paint. Inspiration came from his numerous trips to Europe which began in 1963, as well as two trips to Mexico while maintaining a home and studio in Carmel.  Constantly struggling to reconcile full-time painting with earning enough money to support family and art muse, he established short-lived galleries in Carmel, and restaurants in Cannery Row and Carmel Rancho. No arrangement provided the balance and income necessary for a harmonious life.  It was a struggle that eroded his emotional strength, but not his physical stamina. His fluctuations in mood did not prevent him from working prolifically. He was a painter with the ability to paint what he saw as well as what he felt. Never satisfied with himself, he was constantly experimenting to find new ways of achieving freedom of expression and a definite individuality.

Despondent over what he felt was lack of recognition for his work, his inability to become nationally known, and his failing marriage, Yuan  took his own life and died September 6, 1974.

During his lifetime Yuan was honored with several one-man shows in San Francisco, Boston, and New York, where he showed his traditional as well as his more abstract works. Whenever he entered his paintings in juried shows he won prizes and top honors.  Yuan was an artist who was not interested in self publicity as he was convinced that his work had to speak for him. “Art should have something to communicate to the viewer and only then it is honest art which has permanent value”.  With profound dedication and discipline he created a legacy of paintings rich in beauty and tranquility.

Working in oil and watercolor, he produced still lifes, High Sierra snow scenes, European and Mexican scenes, harbor and beach scenes, and seascapes.  Member: Carmel AA; SWA. Exh: Carmel AA, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1994 (solos); Monterey Co. Fair, 1959 (1st prize), 1966 (1st prize), 1972 (1st prize); Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1967 (1st prize), 1968 (solo); Pacific Grove Art Center, 1972 (solo); Carmel AA, 1974 (Memorial Exhibition); S. C. Yuan exhibition, Carmel Art Association/1994.

Source: Artist’s in California/Hughes; S.C. Yuan/CAA: 1975; 1994; A Tribute to S.C. Yuan/Deragon, Monterey Herald/1994.