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Spring 2003 | Volume 26, Number 2 | Alumni
The World of Teng Chiu

Frye Museum Spotlights Art Collection Owned by Professor Couple

POINTING TO A FAVORITE painting, “Lake Lure, North Carolina,” Seattle Pacific University Professor of International Business and Economics Joanna Poznanska says, “This makes you believe the colors of the place are truer than the real place.”

The painting is part of a large, one-artist collection owned by Poznanska and her husband, Kazimierz Poznanski, professor of international studies at the University of Washington. (Last names differ by gender in their native Poland.) From now through May 11, Frye Art Museum in downtown Seattle highlights 50 pieces from the collection in an exhibit titled “Path of the Sun: The World of Teng Chiu.” It includes a retrospective of oils by Chiu, a once-famous Chinese artist who spent his adult life in the Western Hemisphere.

Chiu’s work has been largely forgotten, but the professor couple hopes to change that. Poznanska has become an acknowledged expert on Chiu’s work, as has her husband, who wrote an essay for the exhibition catalog. According to Poznanski, “Chiu was a landscaper, capable of creating an illusion of universal harmony, often by depicting places where mountains meet water.”

Born in 1903, Chiu moved to the United States as a young man and rose to fame in the art world, winning top awards in the United States and Europe for his expressive, color-soaked technique. The work Chiu accomplished was unlike either Western or Eastern art of the day. The artist explained the middle road he traveled in painting: “I am trying to get the best out of both Eastern and Western art. I am using the techniques of European art, but I try to preserve the broadness of Eastern art with its preoccupation with essentials.”

Seattle Pacific Professor of Art Michael Caldwell, an accomplished painter himself, visited the Frye exhibit. “I was impressed by the facility Chiu had for handling paint,” Caldwell reports. “He was able to convey a sense of place — even the time of day — with just a stroke of color.”

After Chiu’s death in 1972, his paintings drifted from the media’s attention. Over the past several decades, however, Poznanska and her husband have slowly built up what is assumed to be the largest collection of his work. One painting comes from the estate of Madame Chiang Kaishek, wife of the Chinese president, who was known to be close to Chiu’s family. The couple believes it was originally a gift to the president’s family from the artist. They plan to take the exhibit to museums where Chiu lived, from China to England. “We want to introduce him to the Chinese world,” says Poznanski, “and reintroduce him to the West.”


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