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Washing Clothes in a Clear Stream

Oil painting, 116.5 x 80 cm, 1980

River water is like a flowing mirror, reflecting the light, the sky, and the myriad objects on its banks. Many famous painters have left behind brilliant images of famous rivers. Li Mei-shu (1902-1983), a renowned Taiwanese artist, had a particular soft spot for Sanhsia Creek. The simple scene of people washing their clothes by the creek is the most common theme Li depicted in his life.

In the old days, a group of local women would gather along Sanhsia Creek by Qingshui Street in the early mornings to wash clothes and gossip, as if they were conducting a morning broadcast for a village radio station. Li Mei-shu’s interesting arrangement of the characters in the painting leaves much room for imagination. Perhaps the empty space between the women indicated that there was someone too busy to come that morning. The woman half standing up seems to be gathering her things to head home early. And the green-dressed woman in the middle, focusing solely on talking to her neighbor, may just be the ‘broadcast center’ of the village gossip station. Looking at the painting, one can almost hear the sound of the murmuring creek and the quiet chat among these hunched-down women.

To learn more about Li Mei-shu, please go to Li Mei-shu, the “Great Wall” of Taiwanese Art Movement

Text and image are provided by The Li Mei-shu Memorial Gallery

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