Lot 1042
  • 1042

T'ing Yin-Yung (Ding Yanyong)

2,300,000 - 3,200,000 HKD
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  • T'ing Yin-Yung (Ding Yanyong)
  • Portrait of an Artist; Portrait of a Lady (double-sided)
  • signed in Pinyin and dated 1510.65; signed in Pinyin and dated 9/3.67 on the reverse
  • oil on masonite


Sotheby's, Taipei, 16 October, 1994, lot 57
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 April, 2004, lot 523
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 4 April, 2011, lot 660
Acquired from the above sale by the present Asian owner


Taipei, National Museum of History, Aesthetic Images of Ding Yanyong's Paintings, 5 August - 21 September 2003, pl. A84 & A89, p. 143 & 148


This work is in overall good condition. On the front side, there are two pinholes near the upper right and lower left corners. There are pinpoint brownish accretions scattered throughout the surface and light wear near the corners. On the reverse, aside from the two pinholes, there are a small flaking near the upper right corner and light wear near the corners and edges. There is no sign of restoration under UV examination.
"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 Unconstrained Joy of Rhythm
Ting Yin-Yung’s classic Two-Sided Portrait of a Lady

“After studying, I came to realize that my knowledge was insufficient. This prompted me to leave the narrow confines of western modern art and steer myself towards the traditional Chinese culture and spiritual aspects of Chinese art. This enabled me to search for new knowledge and techniques, which I could study further. We should aspire to the intrinsic genius of traditional Chinese art, and implement it today to create a new Chinese art.”

Ting Yin-Yung


Lin Fengmian, Guan Liang and Ting Yanyung were known as the “Three Heroes of Guangdong”, as they had integrated concepts of Chinese and western art into modern Chinese art. In doing so, they made outstanding contributions and engaging creative works. In 1921, Ting Yin-Yung went to Japan; the following year, he was admitted to the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he became immersed in modern arts and gained an understanding of western Impressionism, Fauvism, and other methods of expression. He graduated in 1925 and returned to China. Ting Yin-Yung had won many art awards from Japan and was later recruited to teach painting at the Shenzhou School for Girls in Shanghai. He also formed the Zhonghua University of Fine Art with the support of Cai Yuanpei. Ting Yin-Yung spared no effort in the field of art education and became renowned for the bold, expressive, and vibrant qualities of his work. He became known as “China’s Most Avant-Garde Young Artist”. In 1929, Ting Yin-Yung became involved in the organisation and planning of the Guangzhou Municipal Museum, and thus came into contact with traditional Chinese ink paintings and calligraphic art. During this time, he discovered the work of masters such as Shi Tao, Bada Shanren, and Jin Nong, witnessing the pure beauty and strength present in their black lines and the aesthetic vibrancy of their freehand work. He believed that these elements were paralleled in the works of the masters of modern western art — Henri Matisse, for example — but that they remained richer and more profound in the works of the old Chinese masters. He began to think about how to return to Chinese cultural and spiritual origins, and about how to bring together the East and the West. Ting Yin-Yung attempted to implement the unique lines and ink techniques of Chinese art in western paintings, and in doing so, he created a powerful series of work. He painted in the western style, but used Chinese ink and water techniques; the interaction between the two created a visual language that was truly one of a kind. In the 1960s, he completed the two-sided painting Portrait of an Artist, Portrait of a Lady, which embodied his unique view on aesthetics and the extent of his creative ability.


Soaring Brushstrokes in the Prime of Life

In 1963, Ting Yin-Yung was appointed as a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He often used students and friends as models, and using oil paints, he created a series of portraits. The majority of the surviving portraits were completed in the 1960s: the painting Portrait of an Artist, Portrait of a Lady was also completed in this timeframe. Upon the front surface of the painting, the artist has used large, sweeping structural strokes to render the lines, the surfaces, and the planes in between. In this manner, an Eastern lady, painting in a high-necked Chinese garment, vividly takes shape before the viewer’s eyes. The lines effortlessly flow with no indication of stagnation; this reflects the artist’s vigour and confidence, as well as the consistent vitality of his brushstrokes, and showcases his “one brushstroke painting” skill. Ting Yin-Yung said, “My one-brushstroke paintings do not pursue a life-like realism, but instead allow my perception to find its own way. It’s not that I don’t want to convey their outward spirit, it’s just that I want to give my works a life of their own... Painting is such a great and mysterious thing. Just one simple line can be enough to represent an entire life. It’s not just about the expression of appearance: more importantly, it can actually show you what something is.” In Portrait of an Artist, Portrait of a Lady, although the lady is wearing feminine clothing, Ting Yin-Yung has used thick black lines to depict her distinctive facial features. Her brow reveals an air of heroism and resolution, as if he had caught her staring and observing the moment the brush had painted the objects before her eyes. Ting Yin-Yung has perfectly depicted her with the intrinsic qualities of an artist dedicated to the pursuit of art.

Bright and bold colours have been applied to the portrait of the lady on the rear side of the painting. The lady’s orange clothing stands out against the dark greens behind her, creating a sense of distance between the lady and the background, and a sense of space. The viewer can’t help but relive the delight and elation the artist experienced when painting with those soaring brushstrokes, conveying rhythm through his masterful calligraphic brush work. This work also demonstrates Ting Yin-Yung’s humorous interpretation of the subject, which is evident from how his simple brushstrokes have portrayed the way in which the subject is wearing glasses, and how the eyes have been reduced to single black dots within the frames. This conveys a sort of crude and juvenile sense of humour. This effect is further enhanced by the subject’s hand, as the proportion of the palm has been exaggerated. The poise, the thrust of the chest, and the upright body position make the subject seem like a female vocalist preparing to sing. This work uses simplicity to capture complexity, and through crudeness, conveys intelligence. It displays an everlasting sense of purity and vitality.