|Chinese Longevity Character with Hawaiian Petroglyphs, circa 1960’s|
|Hon Chew Hee, (1906-1993)|
|Oil on Masonite|
|43″ x 83″|
Although born in Kahalui, Maui in 1906, Hon Chew Hee grew up in China, where he received his early training in Chinese brush painting. When he returned to the United States, he pursued further training at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, receiving that school’s highest academic honor, the Virgil Williams Scholarship.
After teaching for some time in China he returned to Hawaii in 1935 where he worked as a freelance artist and held classes in both Western and Eastern styles of painting. Together with Isami Doi (1903-1965), Hee taught painting classes at the YMCA. At this time, Doi instructed the young artist in woodcarving techniques and Hee, like his master, created remarkable wood engravings drawn from the rural life in the Islands. Also interested in screen-printing, Hee founded the Hawaii Watercolor and Serigraph Society.
Hon Chew Hee spent three years in Paris in the 1940s studying with Fernand Leger and Andre Lhote. At that time, he was exposed to the influence of the post-cubists, Jean Arp in particular.
Hon Chew Hee is a very versatile artist. He completed six major murals for the State of Hawaii, including the History of Medicine for Hilo Hospital and the great murals that greet every departing Aloha and Hawaiian Air traveler at the Honolulu Inter-island Terminal. His vast range of expression encompasses watercolor, etching, oils and serigraphs. Hon Chew Hee has earned international respect and appreciation for his accomplishments and contribution to the visual arts including the 1985 Oscar awarded to him by the Italian Academy. In 1986, the Hawaii House of Representatives passed a unanimous resolution commending him for his many achievements.
—Bernard Nogues, July 2004
Hon Chew Hee (1906 – 1993) was an American muralist, watercolorist and printmaker who was born in Kahului, on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 1906. He grew up in China, where he received his early training in Chinese brush painting. He returned to the United States in 1920 at age 14 in order to further his training at the San Francisco Art Institute, receiving that school’s highest academic honor. He then taught in China until moving to Hawaii in 1935. In Hawaii, he worked as a freelance artist and held classes in both Western and Eastern styles of painting. Together with Isami Doi (1903–1965), Hee taught painting classes at the YMCA. At this time, Doi instructed the young artist in woodcarving techniques and Hee, like his master, created wood engravings drawn from the rural life in the Islands. Hee also founded the Hawaii Watercolor and Serigraph Society.
Hon Chew Hee also studied in New York at the Art Students League, at Columbia University, and spent three years in Paris in the 1940s studying with Fernand Léger and Andre Lhote. He was especially greatly influenced by the art of Jean Arp.
From 1932 to the beginning of World War II, Hee lived in San Francisco, where he founded the Chinese Art Association. For the remainder of his life, he lived in Kaneohe, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he died in 1993.
Hee completed six murals for the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the best known of which are The History of Medicine in Hilo Hospital and the murals that greet departing travelers at the Inter-island Terminal of Honolulu International Airport. His other murals were painted for Manoa Library, Enchanted Lake Elementary School, Pukalani Elementary School, and Mililani Library. He also produced entirely abstract works, such as Sunrise Koolau in the collection of the Hawaii State Art Museum. The Hawaii State Art Museum, the Hawaii State Capitol, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the National Taiwan Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri) and are among the public collections holding works by Hon Chew Hee.
- Forbes, David W., “Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawaii and its People, 1778-1941”, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1992, 263.
- Haar, Francis and Neogy, Prithwish, “Artists of Hawaii: Nineteen Painters and Sculptors”, University of Hawaii Press, 1974, 66-73.
- Morse, Morse (ed.), Honolulu Printmakers, Honolulu, HI, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2003, p. 28, ISBN 0-937426-58-X
- Radford, Georgia and Warren Radford, “Sculpture in the Sun, Hawaii’s Art for Open Spaces”, University of Hawaii Press, 1978, 93.
- Yoshihara, Lisa A., Collective Visions, 1967-1997, Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Hawaii, 1997, 142-143.