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.

1902 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"
I1974 & 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.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2018  Ting Yin-Yung: Sincere Brush, Art Museum of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
2011-09 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
2009  New Frontiers: The Art of Ding Yanyong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
2003  Aesthetic Images of Ding Yanyong's Paintings, National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan
1998  Ding Yan Yong Paintings and Calligraphy, Art Museum of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
1978 Ding Yanyong's Works Exhibition, Review of Ding Yanyong's Works, Hong Kong
1977 Ding Yanyong Exhibition, co-organized by "Artist" Magazine, Longmen Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1975 Solo exhibition, East & West Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
1973 Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Paris Seventh University, Paris, France

Selected Group Exhibitions
2008  Hong Kong Art: Open. Dialogue Exhibition Series II - New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond, Curator Alice King, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
1975 15th Annual Exhibition of Southern Painting Academy of Japan, Kyoto, Japan
1974 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
1926 Western Paintings Exhibition, with Guan Liang, Chen Baoyi
1921 Japan Central Art Exhibition

Selected Collections
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Chinese University of Hong Kong