Persimmons and Flowers

Persimmons and Flowers
signed 'Y. Y. TING', dated '14/9. 71' (lower left)
oil on cardboard
40.9 x 31.6 cm. (16 1/8 x 12 1/2 in. )
Painted in 1971
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s Taipei, 19 October 1997, Lot 135
Private Collection, Asia
National Museum of History, Aesthetic Images of Ding Yanyong’s Paintings , Taipei, Taiwan, 2003 (illustrated, p. 95).
Taipei, Taiwan, Aesthetic Images of Ding Yanyong’s Paintings, National Museum of History, 5 August - 21 September 2003.

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Lot Essay

Ding Yanyong began attending the Western painting program at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1919, and was profoundly influenced by Fauvism and Expressionism. Later upon returning to China in 1925, he became a pioneer spearheading the New Art Movement to promote modern Western art in China. On the other hand, he always had a strong interest in traditional Chinese art of painting, calligraphy, epigraphy and seals, particularly the painting styles of Xu Wei, Bada Shanren, and Jin Nong. Fascinated by the expressive dynamic lines in Chinese paintings, he came to synthesize his very own pure abstract lines. At the same time, he attached immense importance on the artistic power of primitivism to attain the pure exploration of composition and subject matter— capitalizing on creating fullness out of simplicity.

The 1960s and 1970s marked the pinnacle of Ding Yanyong's talent in oil paintings. Ding, at this point over 40 years into his artistic career, had honed himself to master his unique style of oil painting, ink wash and seal carving. By harmonizing the different techniques and expressions, he eventually merged them into something inimitable—exploiting the lines and ink techniques of Chinese painting in his Western paintings, and harking back to the primitive nature of art and childhood innocence. His amazing feat left a distinctive legacy in the development of modern art in 20th-century China, and charted a path fusing the thinking and innovation of Chinese and Western arts.

Created in 1971, Persimmons and Flowers (Lot 18) is alive with simple lines ingeniously placed here and there. Cheerfully depicted with an array of bright colours, the mood is easy and free. Easily one of Ding's standout works, carefree lines and strokes define the table top and vase, and illustrate the contours of the stems and flowers, delivering a sense of space out of the white background. The diluted black oil paint is treated to the nimble brush movements of ink wash, where the ink flows with varying depths of shades. The flowers are arranged such that it's sparse on the left and dense on the right, while the vibrant colours are full of life, occupying a dominant position in the upper half of the composition. The orange yellow persimmons at the bottom are plump and voluptuous, depicted with thick brush strokes gushing with animated colours, as if playing with the naive-looking duckling on the vase. This whimsical arrangement not only strikes a balance in the composition, but produces a contrasting air of savoir faire versus tongue in cheek, exaggeration versus reservation. Different from one of Cézanne's still life works (Fig. 1) that uses inverse perspective to reconstruct the structural layout relationship of shape and colour, Ding sets out from the nature of primitive art and the artistic conception of Chinese traditional painting to impart feelings to a similar still life subject matter with his charming use of colours and expressive ink brush movements, wholly demonstrating the life-long pursuit of his own take on artistic freedom.

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