Lot 99
  • 99

Chen Yifei

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Chen Yifei
  • Father and Son
  • signed in Pinyin and Chinese

  • oil on canvas
  • 78 1/4 by 78 1/4 in. 198.7 by 198.7 cm.
  • Executed in 1995.


Marlborough Galleries, New York and London
Acquired by the present owner from the above


47th Venice Biennale, Future, Past and Present, June 15 - January 19, 1997, p. 17, illustrated in color
Shanghai Museum, The Homecoming of Chen Yifei, Retrospective Exhibition, December 22, 1996- January 19, 1997, p. 93, illustrated in color 
Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet, Chen Yifei, Première Exposition en France, June 19 - August 31, 1998, No. 4, illustrated in color
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Memorial Exhibition, A Tribute to Chen Yifei 1946-2005, October 12 - November 12, 2005, p. 8, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Father and Son (Tibet) (1995, Lot 99) by Chen Yifei is a roughly painted double portrait, the young son taking up the left side of the composition and the father, in a shearling coat, dominating the right.  Dark earth colors abound, particularly umbers, and the atmosphere of this monumental work, despite the cold of the Tibetan plateaus, is suffused with the warmth between father and son, although their eyes do not meet and they retain their rugged individualism.  Their coarse features, emphasized as verisitic detail, accentuate their rural existence in hinterlands.  Like a number of painters who have chosen as their theme the simple directness and fortitude of Tibetan life, Chen is interested in depicting a separate reality, one in contrast to the complex, urban life of contemporary China.  At the same time, however, the influence of Western Old Masters – one thinks particularly of Rembrandt’s rich chiaroscuro – shows off Chen’s mastery of the Western idiom. 

No less monumental, Fellow Tibetans (1995, Lot 100) deploys a lighter color language for a group composition with four figures.  Intriguingly viewed from the rear, we focus upon the many textures of the animal hides that protect these rugged people from their cold environment.  The uplifting, brilliant red at top center defines the coat of a young boy, who is held by his mother.  She looks out at the viewer from underneath a fur-lined hood and wears a long dress with bold orange stripes, echoed by the coloration of the sky in the background, as the sun has just set over the distant horizon.  Other works by Chen, such as Spring Time in Suzhou (2001, Lot 97) and Double Bridge (1996, Lot 98), depict the misty landscapes, bridges, waterways, and traditional architecture of the artist’s beloved Suzhou.  In these celebrated works we find something of the atmospheric intensity and luminosity of the Impressionists.  The variety of stylistic tendencies Chen is able to deploy successfully demonstrates his command of painterly vocabularies, which transforms influence into a creative practice uniquely his own.

Chen Yifei was born in 1946 in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, and graduated from the Shanghai Art Training School in 1965; by 1970 he was well recognized in Chinese painting circles and was among the first students of his era to study in the United States, moving to New York in 1981 and receiving a Master’s degree from Hunter College in 1984.  Chen gained early entrée to and success within the New York art world.  Already one of the most significant painters of his generation, in the early 1990s Chen turned his attention to film-making, fashion design, and, ultimately, to a range of style-related enterprises.  Chen died in 2005 at the age of 59 while working on “The Music Box,” a film subsequently completed by his team and released in the spring of 2006.

Chen Yifei’s younger brother Chen Yiming (b. 1951), held an exhibition of his own work from December 2005 to January 2006, and his Stone Bridge, Suzhou (2005, Lot 96) was painted with the dedication, “In Memory of My Dear Brother Chen Yifei (1946-2005).”  It is an homage that resonates with Chen Yifei’s love of beauty and the simplicity of life in the southern provinces.