Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art


Yang Feiyun
signed and dated 1985.4 ; titled and signed in Chinese on the reverse, framed
oil on canvas
116 by 95.5 cm.; 45  5/8  by 37  5/8  in.
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Private Collection, China


China, Beijing, National Art Museum of China, the Third National Youth Artistic Exhibition, 1985, Bronze-prize winner
Japan, Chinese Contemporary Artist Exhibition, 1986



Yang Feiyun, Suzhai Publishing House, Macau, China, 1996, p.52
20th Century Chinese Oil Painting ¿-1, Beijing Publishing House and Beijing Arts and Photography Publishing House, Beijing, China, p.110
Representative Painter of Chinese Classicism – Yang Feiyun, Guangxi, China, Guangxi Fine Art Press, April 2003, p.31
Portraits Image Reference Series: Oil Painting Figures, Yangliuqing Publishing House, Tianjin, China, 2007, p.10 (detail)

Catalogue Note

Little Actress: A Classic of Neoclassicism

For Yang Fei-Yun, realistic oil painting 'is neither a painting style, nor a short-period genre, but one kind of expressive power'. From the beginning of the 1980s, he has worked on a series of portraits that have established his style as a classical narrative in which he balances a physical reality with a sense of idealism; Little Actress is a landmark work from this series. The painting is a purification and rationalization of physical form, particularly compared with the post 1990s portraits which refer more obviously to reality. The composition is a stable pyramid with the background simplified to a uniform dark shade;  the round bar left at the bottom of the painting deliberately creates a space without a sense of depth. The use of plain glass creates a subtle visual contrast between the black ballet skirt and light-colored human body; influenced by Rembrandt's lighting, the delicate contour lines further emphasise the character's gentle qualities. In Yang Fei-Yun's paintings, his wife Peng Peng exudes a subtle and elegant quality, just like Mademoiselle Rivierein the painting of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. However the restrained structure and coloring of the painting is closer to the Northern European style of Albrecht Dürer and Holbein. No doubt, this rigorous quality originates from Yang Fei-Yun's many years spent studying Renaissance style and technique.  

As a leading figure of the Chinese Realistic Art, Yang Fei-Yun is obsessed with the techniques of Classical Art. For himChinese Realistic painting does not consist of the accumulation of the Western Classical techniques, but of partaking in innovation and delicacy. Realistic paintings, based on concrete objects, demonstrate an aesthetic core of emotion and spirituality. Young Female Singer, by Mr. Ji Shang-Yi, master of Yang Fei-Yun, combines the classical European realistic techniques and ancient Chinese Shanshui spirits and to integrate both western and eastern ideologies. Similarly, Yang Fei-Yun attempts to trace the subtle, refined and delicate origin of Chinese culture and to depict an oriental aesthetic  using traditional Western painting techniques and. The oriental attitude of the model Peng Peng suits Yang Fei-Yun's aesthetic ideals, with her young body acting as a muse to fill his paintings with a density of life, much as Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal was a muse to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Peng Peng's folded hands and closely held arms, show a young woman's shyness and insecurity,  in the same way as the terrified young girl in Puberty by Edvard Munch.. However Peng Peng calmly gazes back at the examining look of the painter and the viewers, which further contributes to the character's distant and calm qualities. Indeed, Yang Fei-Yun always insists on completely removing any indications of society from his figures in order to analyse the true humanity hidden beneath with the sophisticcated techniques of the Classical Arts.  

Over a career that spans more than twenty years, from the early Little Actress to the more recent foundation of Chinese Realistic Art, Yang Fei-Yun has maintained a strong sense of purpose,a low profile  and a clear  head. Even the phenomenon of the 85 New Wave did not carry him away and he never renounced his artistic independence or the primacy of oil painting, always persuing his unique practice of Neoclassical Art. In 2008, Wang Yin paid homage to Yang Feiyun by placing the image of Little Actress in his own painting Bei Dao. This postmodern reappropriation is a further exploration into the original work and provides a new interpretation. Even realistic paintings can bear the weight of society, history, politics and ethic as a symbolic platform . 

Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art