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Seated Lady in Green Blouse

Seated Lady in Green Blouse
signed and dated 'Y.Y.T'ING 5/9.69' (upper right)
oil on canvas
91.2 x 60.6 cm. (35 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1969
Margaret Lim, USA (acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner in late 1960s)
Anon. sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, 24 May 2014, lot 51
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Rita Wong ed., Ting Yin Yung: Catalogue Raisonne, Oil Paintings, Hatje Cantz, Berlin, Germany, 2020 (illustrated, plate 123, p.235)

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

Lot Essay

“I only paint in the yibi style: that is, I aim not at verisimilitude but to paint according to my feelings in the moment; however, that doesn’t mean I disregard physical forms - I’m actually trying to give objects lives of their own.”

-Ting Yin Yung (Rita Wong,Ting Yin Yung Catalogue Raisonne, Oil Paintings, The Li Ching Cultural and Educational Foundation, p.23-24)

Ting Yin Yung is known for his original creative style, which goes beyond the norms of eastern or western art and encompasses ink wash as well as oil paintings. He dedicated his life to promoting new art forms that reflect the spirit of the times and played an important role in modernising Chinese artists throughout the 20th century through his involvement in art education.

Seated Lady in Green Blouse was painted in 1969 and remains an excellent example of T’ing’s adaptable and unorthodox style, drawing from eastern and western norms as he saw fit. The work dynamically captures the character’s charm and poise, and uses a western medium to accurately channel the traditional Chinese custom of “depicting spirit through form”. According to Rita Wong’s T’ing Yin Yung Catalogue Raisonne, Oil Paintings, T’ing’s oil paintings, numbering at just 301 pieces, are far rarer than his ink wash works. Among those, just 79 are portraits, and even though these comprise a major category among his works, only 49 physical paintings remain, and the rest only exist as photographic records. As a result, T’ing’s oil portraits are especially precious and sought-after.

Seated Lady in Green Blouse was originally come from the collection of Ms. Margaret Yukbing Lim, where it remained in her home for more than 40 years. Before Ms. Lim and her husband immigrated to the US, her teacher Ting Yin Yung presented her with this work. In 1968, Ms. Lim attended Chinese University in Hong Kong, fortuitously coinciding with T’ing’s move to the island in 1949 where he joined the University’s Art Department. Apart from teaching at the school, the artist also took on private students; it was through this opportunity that Ms. Lim and her younger brother came to study in Chinese brush painting and stone seal carving with T’ing for two and a half years. Ms. Lim fondly remembers those days practicing painting in T’ing’s studio, recalling her teacher’s amiable and sincere attitude towards his students. In 1969, T’ing painted this portrait the year before she moved to America, to present to her as a commemorative gift before she embarked on her long journey—a perfect display of the profound friendship shared between the teacher and his student.

On portraiture, the Eastern Jin dynasty painter Gu Kaizhi made the keen observation that, “In painting, portraits are the most difficult, followed by landscapes, then animals. While it takes effort to depict buildings and structures, that is still easy to accomplish, and there is no need for empathy”. It is clear that traditional Chinese paintings consider portraiture much more challenging than other subjects, because an artist needs to capture both the “spirit and form” of a person, and every person has unique charm, personality, features that takes great skill for an artist to capture. Seated Lady in Green Blouse uses simple fluent lines to craft the subject’s contours and features, deftly capturing her effortless elegance and decorum. This preference for simplicity shows us T’ing’s exploration of Primitive Art, combining simple forms with bold Fauvist colours to create a unique and original expression of his own.

Seated Lady in Green Blouse uses a striking shade of pea green for the model’s jacket, accented by crimson splashes on the chair in the lower half of the painting to achieve a powerful visual contrast that powerfully impacts the viewers. Unlike classical western paintings which make use of light, shadows, and lines to define a sense of distance and space, T’ing deliberately downplayed the background and used vibrant colour blocks to communicate dimensionality. This technique obscures the historical and environmental context surrounding the subject and makes her the sole focus in the painting; not only does this break apart the external physical form from reality, we are also forced to reinterpret the innate essence of the person – in other words, viewers are guided to focus their attention on just the person, and especially the inner self of the person.

T’ing’s use of deceptively simple lines, daring colours, and expressive brushstrokes in Seated Lady in Green Blouse puts him in a class of his own among the first generation of Chinese oil painters.

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