Born in Shanghai at the end of Qing Dynasty in 1896, Qian Ding represents an early generation of Chinese oil painters in China and was among the earliest art educators to advocate sketch, oil painting and watercolour in the country. Qian began learning traditional Chinese painting from Xu Yangzhou, a xiucai, at the young age of 7, building solid foundation in keen observation of nature that flourished into a style of an increasingly expressive manner. He strove to integrate oil painting methods into traditional ink painting, and vice versa, echoing the aesthetic ideology of painter and art educator Pan Tianshou, who called for a renewal in 'national painting' fitting for a modern China. His subjects, mainly of landscape, are drawn from direct observation of nature, sketched in plein air style of the French Impressionists, and vividly capture the aesthetic feeling of the real view. Fascinated by nature, Qian traveled widely and made long-distance sketching trips to many famous rivers and mountains of China, and even climbed up Mount Emei at the age of 84 to capture its magnificent scenery. He believed that where diffractive lighting diffused in thick air can be captured in the portrayal of cloudy mountains or foggy trees in ink painting, oil painting only rely on colours (se and cai) to reflect the atmosphere and moving lights in the scenery. His rich and vibrant colours capture the changing light conditions, moisture and luminosity in the air through concise and deliberate lines, and strong and powerful brushwork that incorporates the effects of ink painting.
Qian devoted his life to the theory and practice of art for 70 years and actively participated in new cultural movements. In 1926, he was invited by Wen Yiduo, to teach Western painting in Beiping National Art Academy, working alongside with the renowned ink painter Qi Baishi. In 1936, right before the War of Resistance against Japan, he was engaged in Mo She, Silent Society, along with Xu Beihong, Yan Wenliang, and Zhu Qizhan, among others, and was also involved in the Nine Painters Association along with Guan Liang, Ding Yanyong, Ni Yide, and others. He cultivated a new generation of artists who reflect his aesthetic ideology emphasized on maintaining the intrinsic form of expression in the medium, but applying those learnt from other forms and paraphrasing nature instead of replicating it.