Susan and Michael Gassaway (Syllavethy Gallery, Aberdeenshire) met Chen Yanning on a trip to China in 1984, when he was the Head of the Guangdong Institute of Fine Art. To reciprocate his hospitality, Susan and Michael invited Yanning to visit the UK to view some of the Old Masters of Western Art that he had only seen in books back in China. Two years later, Yanning arrived in Aberdeen and together with Susan and Michael, he visited the museums in Scotland and London. Yanning made the museum attendants nervous as he wanted to get up close to study the thickness of paint on his favourite masterpieces. He, Susan and Michael communicated by using sign language and drawing sketches and quickly established a great friendship.
Chen Yanning (b.1945) is a Chinese painter who lives and works in the United States. He was born in the southern province of Guangzhou, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1965. He continued to work at the Academy as a painter until 1986 when he relocated to America, to study at Oklahoma City University. His early Chinese works include the poster Chairman Mao Inspects the Guangdong Countryside (1972) and New Doctor of the Fishing Port (1973).
He has had many public portrait commissions most notably for the British Royal Family, in which he painted Queen Elizabeth, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne. Yanning’s portrait of the Queen was subsequently used by Royal Mail for the Jubilee Year stamp.
Yanning places the figure at the bottom of the canvas, on the threshold of the pictorial plane. Only his head is visible, his arms and body cut off from view. It is almost as if he has briefly popped his head up into the picture space, all of a sudden occupying the otherwise empty vista of a flowering prunus tree. Yanning has used the device to create a sense of movement in the work, an immediacy between the viewer and the otherwise static painted surface.
Yanning works with oil paint, a medium predominantly used by western artists. Chinese painting was traditionally based on the technique of brush painting, which consisted of similar techniques to calligraphy using black ink or coloured pigments. Although a very different medium to oil paint, Yanning’s portraits, in employing an impasto technique, which imbues the surface with an almost blurred washed finish, seems to suggest the sustained influence of his country’s native painting.
This November, we are delighted to include Chen Yanning's 'Young Boy with Fruit' in our Wednesday 6 November auction of Fine Asian & Islamic Art at The Hellenic Centre in London.
Dates for Your Diary
AUCTION | Fine Asian & Islamic Works of Art | Wednesday, 6th November 12:00 |
The Hellenic Centre, 16-18 Paddington Street, London W1U 5AS
VIEWING | Sun 03 November 12pm – 5pm | Mon 04 November 10am - 7pm | Tues 05 November 10am – 5pm |
Wed 06 November 10am - 11am | 22 Connaught Street, W2 2AF