by Dong Yifang

China’s fine art traditions, practices, and imagery have long been linked to significant political and cultural movements in that country’s history. From 1911 to 2017, there have been periods of the Republic of China, High Socialism, and Reform, respectively — each of which were witnessed by prolific artist Dong Yifang (1925-2006).

Opening August 28 and on view through October 7 at Purdue University Galleries in West Lafayette, Indiana, is an exciting visual survey of the life’s work of Chinese ink painter Dong Yifang. Through three distinct periods of Chinese history in the 20th century, Yifang both found and evolved his artistic voice, and explored each period in depth through ink, oil, and watercolor paintings.

“Dong began his artistic practice in the 1930s by developing a solid foundation in traditional Chinese painting through his studies with teacher and painter Qin Zhongwen,” the university writes. “At the Beijing College of Art, from 1942-1945, Dong learned oil painting from Wei Tianlin (1898-1977), an impressionist who had studied in Japan. In 1946, Dong studied watercolor painting at Fu Jen University and worked with Gustav Ecke at Beijing College of Art. Through these experiences, Dong Yifang became skilled in both Western and traditional Chinese painting techniques. Early in his career, Dong’s work reflected his studies and understanding of traditional artistic practices; his paintings also revealed a love for the landscape. During the period of High Socialism, Dong struggled with the limitations that resulted from the politicization of art, as socialist realism became the official art style of the People’s Republic of China. Finally, during the period of Reform (1977-present), modern Western art was reintroduced, and Dong Yifang found the freedom he needed to continue his artistic development. In the 1990s, Dong established a method of painting by building upon the techniques of traditional Chinese ink painting and incorporating Western-influenced naturalism. His final works reveal not only a unique understanding of material, light, space, and form, but a thought-provoking commentary on the artist’s never-ending search for mastery of craft and originality of voice within a world of political and social change.

“‘Dong Yifang: Painting Through a Century of Change in China’ will feature ink paintings and sketches by Dong Yifang, supplemented by original art work of Dong’s teachers, colleagues, and students: Qin Zhongwen (1896-1974), Lu Yanshao (1909-1993), Song Wenzhi (1919-2000), Wei Tianlin (1898-1977), and Wang Yani (b. 1975).”

To learn more, visit Purdue University.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the Editor of Fine Art Today and works as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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