Ding Yanyong

1902-1978, Hong Kong


Hailed as “Matisse of the East” and “Bada Shanren of Modern Times”, Ding Yanyong was a pioneer in introducing modern Western art into China and a leading figure in the renewal of the ancient China tradition for modern expression. His creative works in oil and ink cross the boundaries of Chinese and Western art to achieve a personal synthesis of the two great artistic traditions.

Ding Yanyong, born on 15 April 1902, was a native of Mourning, Guangdong province. He was among the first Chinese artists who went to Japan to study Western painting in the early decades of the twentieth century. He attended Japan’s most prestigious art school, the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, between 1919 and 1925 and developed into an accomplished painter of the Fauvist and Expressionist styles. Upon his return to China, he became a pioneer in the New Art Movement to promote modern Western art in China and to reform traditional Chinese art. As a leading art educator, he taught Western painting in the art academies in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. In 1949 he moved to Hong Kong, where he continued to engage in teaching and creative work until his death in 1978. He was one of the founders of the Fine Arts Department of New Asia College in 1957, which was incorporated into The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1963. Exhibitions of his work were held in China prior to 1949 and subsequently in Hong Kong and many countries around the world.

It was around 1929 that Ding discovered the intellectual depth and expressive beauty of the Chinese literati and individualist traditions. Since that time he embarked upon a long journey to synthesize Chinese and Western art by delving deeply into the native tradition, studying and collecting ancient calligraphy, painting and archaeological artifacts, and in particular the works of Bada Shanren of the seventeenth century and archaic seals. Renowned as an artist proficient in both oil and ink media, Ding was also noted for his innovative style in the traditional art-form of seal carving in his late years. Profoundly influenced by Bada Shanren, Ding was particularly recognized for his paintings of flowers and birds and figures executed in a simple, naïve and expressive style. His involvement in traditional painting invariably transformed his oils, giving them greater calligraphic rhythm and boldness in conception.

Born in Maopo Village, Xieji Town, Maoming County, Guangdong Province (present-day Gaozhou City)
1918    Began to learn painting at the age of sixteen
1920    After graduating from Maoming County High School, he was sent to Japan by Guangdong Province Government to study sketching at Kawabata School
1921    Entered the Western Painting Department of the Tokyo Fine Arts College and studied Western painting, including figures, still lifes, landscapes, especially influenced by the master Matisse. His works have been selected to the Central Art Exhibition of Japan
1925    Returned to China, served as a professor of Western painting at Lida Academy in Shanghai, and also served as a Western painting of the Shenzhou Women's Art Department. 
Appreciated and assisted by Professor Cai Yuanpei to become Director of China Art University and was active in the Shanghai art scene. The style of painting is realistic and tended to be line-oriented.
1926    Organized joint exhibitions with artists such as Guan Liang and Chen Baoyi to promote modern art
1928    Member of the First National Fine Arts Exhibition, Review, and Preparatory Committee. In the same autumn, he returned to Guangzhou to prepare for the Municipal Fine Arts Museum in Yuexiu Mountain as Director of Fine Arts Department, Standing Committee, and Professor of Western Painting, Guangzhou Municipal Art School
1929    Began to study Chinese painting and engaged in engraving and art theory
1932    Went to Shanghai again, teaching at Xinhua Art College
Began to study the traditional painters who had strong styles in the early Qing Dynasty, such as Zhu Xi and Shi Tao, collecting Neem and exploring some connection between literati painting and modern Western art
1941    After returned to Guangdong, he became Professor of Sichuan National Art College
1945    After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, he participated in the Nine Paintings Conference in Shanghai to discuss Chinese and Western art.
1946    President of Guangdong Provincial Art College
1949    Moved to Hong Kong and taught at Hong Kong Deming Middle School and Zhusheng Middle School. He taught painting for a living, focusing on Chinese painting, calligraphy, flowers, birds, and landscapes
1956    Taught at Fine Arts Department, New Asia College, Hong Kong
1957    Participated in the establishment of the Fine Arts Department of New Asia College
1961    Director of Fine Arts Department, Deming College, Hong Kong
1962-78     Taught at Department of Art, Chinese University of Hong Kong
1963    Established Hongdae Art College, Hong Kong, but lost after a few months
1973-77    Professor of Chinese Painting, Department of Foreign Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Director of Fine Arts Department, 
Tsinghua College
Invited to visit France, the Seventh University of Paris published "Ding Yanyong's Calligraphy and Painting Seal" and "Ding Yanyong's Paintings"
1974 & 75    Invited to participate in the joint exhibition in Kyoto, Japan
1975    Visited Melbourne, Australia
1976    Published "Ding Yanyong's Poetry and Calligraphy and Engraving Collection"
1978    Died in Hong Kong due to illness, 76 years old
After the death, established the "Ding Yanyong Academic Achievement Award", "Ding Yanyong Art Award", "Ding Yanyong Painting Society", etc.

  • A Tribute to Ding Yanyong, Ink Society, Fine Art Asia, , Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
  • Ting Yin-Yung: Sincere Brush, Art Museum of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • A Retrospective Anthology of Ding Yanyong's Art, Travelling exhibition, Guangzhou Museum of Art, Guangzhou; Hong Kong Museum of Art; Art Museum of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • New Frontiers: The Art of Ding Yanyong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
  • Aesthetic Images of Ding Yanyong's Paintings, National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Ding Yan Yong Paintings and Calligraphy, Art Museum of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Ding Yanyong's Works Exhibition, Review of Ding Yanyong's Works, Hong Kong
  • Ding Yanyong Exhibition, co-organized by "Artist" Magazine, Longmen Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Solo exhibition, East & West Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
  • Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Paris Seventh University, Paris, France

  • NOT A Fashion Store!, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong

  • Legacy & Creations: Ink Art vs Ink Art, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China

  • 15th Annual Exhibition of Southern Painting Academy of Japan, Kyoto, Japan
  • Contemporary Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, travelling exhibition for two years, exhibited 12 works, co-organized by Fine Arts Department, New Asia College, Chinese University of Hong Kong and American Yali Association
  • 14th Annual Exhibition of the Southern Painting Academy of Japan, Kyoto, Japan
  • Western Paintings Exhibition, with Guan Liang, Chen Baoyi
  • Japan Central Art Exhibition

Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong