Daily Art Moment: Bue Kee

Portrait of a young, light-skinned Asian man, facing left in three-quarter view. He has a small mouth, his lips pursed, thin dark eyebrows, high cheekbones and a long thin nose. His brownish eyes are fixed in an intense gaze off to the left. He has a brown, full head of hair brushed back and elongated ears. Brushstrokes are visible in his hair and skin. Light catches the bridge of his nose, his cheekbones forehead and chin. Some areas reveal the weave of the canvas on which the portrait is painted. The figure wears an off-white collared shirt, with a blue-gray vest with horizontal brushstrokes of white and gold creating texture. A necktie depicted in red, blue and gold brushstrokes is visible at the throat. The background is a rich mustard gold color achieved by multiple brushstrokes filling the entire space.

“Bue Kee’s ‘Self-Portrait’ is currently a part of the exhibit, Portraiture from the Collection of Northwest Art, and it is a work I am eager to see again in person. Kee worked in a variety of mediums including painting, ceramics, and photography. Born and raised on a farm outside of Portland, Kee was Chinese-American. Despite having hearing loss and not finishing grade school, he later attended the Museum Art School and was mostly known for his work as a WPA-Federal-Art-Project artist working in ceramics at Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood and Tongue Point Naval Air Station near Astoria. Kee’s self-portrait from ca. 1930 captures a neutral tone with a softness of light and form, while the delicacy of his lines create a crispness to his white shirt and accentuates the features of his face.”

Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art

Bue Kee (American, 1893–1985). Self-Portrait, ca. 1930. Oil on canvas. Gift of Michael Parsons and Marte Lamb, 2005.114.3 © unknown, research required

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