Way John

1921 Shanghai China-2012 San Francisco USA


Born in Shanghai in 1921, John Way was a Chinese-American artist, who became known for his bold paintings that combine layers of colours inspired by Chinese calligraphy and Abstract Expressionist painting. Way began studying calligraphy at the age of ten under the famous artist Li Zhongqian, the nephew and student of Li Ruiqing. At sixteen he had his first calligraphy exhibition, which garnered him praise for his works. In 1949 he and his family moved to Hong Kong where he joined the Hong Kong Art Club and for the first time was exposed to and able to study Western art. His paintings of this period are typically figurative in the subject matter. He moved to Boston in 1956 and studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During 1960s, Way began to feel that abstraction best enabled him to express himself as an artist. Notably, his oil paintings became suffused with colour in such a way that space breathes and gives the impression of great depth. He “wrote” over these layers with a thick brush of darker paint, reminiscent of the free-flowing movement of the calligrapher’s brush. He went to Paris for further studies in 1975 and published a series of four Chinese calligraphy books in 1981, 1986, 1991 & 1999. He passed away in 2012.

Alisan Fine Arts has organised three solo exhibitions for him in 2001, 2003 and 2006, and exhibited his work as part of Syncretic Visions: The First Generation of Chinese Diaspora Artists in America, a curated selection of Chinese-American diaspora artists shown at Fine Art Asia in 2015. His works have been exhibited in over forty solo and group shows around the world, including in the United States, France, Switzerland, Germany, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He was chosen in 1965 to exhibit alongside Hartung, Pollock, and Warhol in an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston titled Painter without a Brush. In 1997, he was listed in “Who’s Who in International Art” and in 1998 he was Appointed Art Professor, at the Accademia Internazionale Greci Marino, in Italy. His work was selected in Switzerland to be part of a postage stamp series in 2000, 2002 and 2004. A major catalogue was published for his retrospective in 2001 at Shanghai Art Museum. In 2006, an exhibition of his calligraphy and oil paintings were on show at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Hawaii, and a 90-Year Retrospective in Beijing 2010. His works have been collected by the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, United States; Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, United States; Hong Kong Museum of Art.


1921            Born in Shanghai, son of a collector of Chinese painting and calligraphy

1931            Began to study Chinese calligraphy under Li Zhongqian (1881-1956), nephew of the great master Li Ruiqing (1867-1920)

1949            Left Shanghai for Guangzhou in May and settled in Hong Kong in September

1951            Joined the Hong Kong Art Club and for the first time experiments with Western Art techniques such as sketching from live models

1956            Emigrated to Boston, MA, USA with his family

1957-8         Studied engineering at MIT, enrolled in “Form and Design” at MIT School of Architecture to learn the theory of modern art

1973            Moved to Los Altos, CA, USA

1975            Lived and studied in Paris, France

1981            Published Chinese Calligraphy Series No.1 “Mao Kung Tin”

1985            Ten oil on paper paintings accepted in “Le Salon Des Nations à Paris 1985,” Paris, France

1986            Published Chinese Calligraphy Series No.2 “Oracle Bone Couplets”

1991            Published Chinese Calligraphy Series No.3 “A Thousand Character Essay in Cursive Chinese Calligraphy Style”

1997            “Hommage à John Way” published in Who’s Who in International Art.  A painting was selected for reproduction on a Swiss postage stamp

1998            Appointed Art Professor, Accademia Internazionale “Greci Marino,” Vinzoglio, Italy

1999 Published Chinese Calligraphy Series No.4 “Yeh Hoa Ming” in Shanghai, China

2000            Another painting was selected for the Swiss postage stamp series “Celebration de l’Annee 2000, Artistes et Maitres”

2002            A painting was selected the Swiss postage stamp series “Celebration de l’Annee 2000, Artistes et Maitres”

2004            A painting “Red and Blue” was selected for the Swiss postage stamp series “Celebration de l’Annee 2000, Artistes et Maitres”

2012            Passed away in San Francisco, USA


Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • 90-Year Retrospective of Chinese-American Artist John Way, Art Vim Gallery, Beijing, China
  • Painterly Calligraphy, John Way, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Order from Disorder: The Ancient Art of Chinese Calligraphy and Abstract Expressionism by John Way, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii, USA
  • Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • New Age Gallery, Taiwan
  • Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
  • Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Gallery On The Rim, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • The Academy Gallery, Academy of Art College, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Calligraphy, National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Oil Painting on Paper, Galerie Serogian & Bahls, Heidelberg, Germany
  • Oil Paintings, Rubican Gallery, Los Altos, CA, USA
  • Oil Painting, Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA, USA
  • Oil Painting, Stratton Center, MIT Gallery, Boston, MA, USA
  • Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA, USA
  • Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA, USA
  • Nexus Gallery, Boston. MA, USA
  • Calligraphy, Painting and Seal Carving, Art Gallery of China, Shanghai, China
  • Calligraphy, Sun Gallery, Shanghai, China


Selected Group Exhibitions
  • West Bund Art & Design Fair 2018, Alisan Fine Arts, West Bund Art Center, Shanghai, China

  • Synretic Visions: The First Generation of Chinese Artists in America, FINE ART ASIA, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
  • Art Basel Hong Kong, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
  • Geneva-Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland
  • International Biennial, Museum of Modern Art of Miami, Miami, FL, USA
  • Le Salon des Nations à Paris 1985, Paris France
  • American Painters in Paris, Paris, France
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, USA
  • Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA, USA
  • Painter without a Brush, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, USA
  • Chosen to exhibit alongside deKooning, Pollock, and Kline
  • Boston Arts Festival, Boston, MA, USA
  • New England Art of Today, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
  • Turn Toward Peace, Boston, MA, USA
  • Chapter of Our Time, New York, USA
  • Art Gallery, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA
  • Nexus Gallery, Boston, MA, USA
  • Mystic Art Exhibition, Mystic, CT, USA
  • Hong Kong Art Club Annual Exhibitions, Hong Kong

Selected Museum Collections

Stanford University Museum Iris and Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Art, Stanford, CA, USA

Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA