Lot 560
  • 560

Ding Yanyong

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD
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  • Ding Yanyong
  • Girl's Portrait
  • oil on canvas mounted on board
signed YY. Ting and dated 18/11/72


Property from the Collection of Ms. Yuen Wai Chung


This work is in good condition. There are several horizontal creases running through the work, predominantly one crease 37 cm in length, 8 cm from the top edge. There is an area of discoloration 8 cm in length along the left edge of the painting, presumably inherent to the artist's working method. There is a paint loss 4 cm in length, 26 cm from the bottom and 3 cm from the left edge of the work. There is evidence of artist's pinholes at the four corners of the painting and minor scattered flaking paint, paint losses and craquelure across the surface of the painting, consistent with the natural aging process of the medium. There is no evidence of restoration under UV.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The Two Oil Paintings of Ding Yanyong

Yan-yong Ding’s legacy as an artist is divided into two parts. After his graduation from the Western painting programme at Tokyo Fine Arts School, Ding began to teach in art schools all across China. After the Second Sino-Japanese War, his status reached the apex as he assumed the directorship of the Guangdong Provincial College of Art. However, due to China’s unstable political situation, the grandmaster was forced to emigrate to Hong Kong in 1949. His career faced a huge setback and consequently he merely managed to uphold a teaching position in a secondary school. Fortunately, many in the public were determined to revive the Chinese culture. Hence in 1957, Yan-yong Ding was invited to construct the Fine Arts programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). His was able to re-launch his career and created many masterpieces during this period.

Acclaimed art historian May-hing Kao described Yan-yong Ding’s artistic hourney as “a source of three veins”; and the three veins being oil painting, ink painting and zhuan calligraphy (zhuan shu). Although Ding immersed in studying Chinese painting and zhuan calligraphy upon his return to China, oil painting remained as his main medium in his works.  When he was in Hong Kong he combined these three elements onto the canvas and created a unique personal style. This season presents the Rose Vase (Lot XXX) and Portrait of a Girl (Lot XXX) from the The Sanbuyi Tang family. Owner Hong-shu Yuan is a pupil of Ding and they share a deep connection with each other. Yuan donated 166 pieces of his mentor to the Art Museum of CUHK and kept these two works as a memento.

The Rose Vase: A conversation with Fauvism

Yan-yong Ding was mentored by Eisaku Wada and received an academic rigorous training. Fauvism, led by Henri Matisse, also impacted Ding hugely. After he returned to his homeland, Ding realised the importance of integrating Chinese culture into oil painting. Hence he plunged into zhuan calligraphy and incorporated it into his oil painting creations. The Rose Vase was featured at a Ding Yan-yong Retrospective Exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from 2008 to 2009. Instead of creating depth, the flat composition merged the vase, desk, orange and the wall into one layer. The vase’s fronds decoration is depicted in a way that blends in with the wallpaper’s ornamentation.  The choice of using solid bright colours such as yellow, red, orange and green creates a visually contrasting effect; evoking a blissful emotion.

Inspired by Matisse’s vibrantly hued and richly ornamented style, Ding further accentuated the oriental facet in Rose Vase. Fauvism paintings are characterised by filling the canvas profusely with pigments to create a compelling visual effect. However, the artist differed from the style and instead chose a white background to allow the colours to breathe around the canvas. What is more, the artist expressed his zealous personality by fusing zhuan calligraphy into the outlines of the vase and the flower.

Portrait of a Girl: A Captivating Charm

“Empty-handed, voided, path prolonging, never ending. Hardship makes me endeavour, fatigue provokes my sentiments” is not only the lyrics to New Asia College’s (CUHK) anthem, but an apt portrayal of Ding’s struggles during his time in Hong Kong. Having no family in Hong Kong followed by the deaths of his wife and children, his life became desolated. Subsequently he spent most of his time with his students and pupils exploring further territories in art. Portraiture continued to be the main genre in Ding’s oil paintings. He received training from the academia in his twenties and thus is experienced in sketching and formative arts. He later focused on simplistic treatment on complex subjects, and swiftly grasped the essence of the character with concise and smooth lines.

Ding picked mostly friends and students as his subject matter. The model in Portrait of a Girl is the granddaughter of Sanbuyi Tang’s owner, Hui-zhong Yuan. She recalled that she used to play around in the studio while her grandfather Hong-shu Yuan was visiting his mentor. She remembered that Yan-yong Ding always created oil paintings and would pay extra attention to the work if it was a gift to his friends. Once he was delighted and  made a portrait based on  the six year old girl  standing in front of him. Overlooking all the works of Yan-yong Ding retrospectively, Portrait of a Girl is currently the only work depicting child.

The canvas was painted with contrasting primary colour and the model’s face and neck are gradually rendered into red. Different from the rest of Ding’s portraits, the facial contours are not outlined, resembling the features of a child. Thus parts such as the eye sockets, nose and cheeks appeared to be more delicate. Although the painting was created later in his career, it is is nonetheless reminiscent of Ding’s style in the 50s and 60s. It can be understood why the collector could not bear to let go of the two pieces then since cherished memories between the collector and his mentor are kept in them. The importance of the Rose Vase and Portrait of a Girl is beyond their aesthetic value.  Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Ding’s death, it certainly makes it even more significant to take a good look back!