Hu Yongkai has established a reputation both in China and the West for his depictions of elegant ladies at leisure in garden pavilions or old-style Chinese houses. His work reflects traditional Chinese painting but at the same time displays Western influences. Hu's subject matter is romantic and nostalgic, describing a bygone age, yet his vision is surprisingly contemporary. His ladies may be daydreaming from a window, luxuriating in their bath, or demurely sitting on Qing Dynasty furniture with birdcages and fans - but they do not seem remote from the modern viewer.
Born in Beijing in 1945, Hu graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1964. Though he received instruction in the techniques of traditional Chinese painting, the main focus was on Western style oil painting. As a student, Hu particularly admired Van Gogh and Gauguin. After graduation, he became art director of the Shanghai Animation Film Studios, a post he held until 1985. As part of his duties, he painted cartoons, always managing to include little animals wherever possible. This influence is still evident in his work today.
During the Cultural Revolution, film studios staff were sent to the countryside south of Shanghai. Despite the demands of hard physical work, Hu made a lot of sketches recording detailed observations of farm buildings and village houses, peasant families and the rhythms of country life, later a valuable fund of inspiration. Chinese New Year pictures and papercuts made by peasants with no artistic training made a deep impression, as did the women of the region, reputed to be the most beautiful in China.
Hu was appointed lecturer at Shanghai University's Fine Arts College in 1985, but in 1988 a desire to travel and see Western art led him to first to Hong Kong and then to museums and art galleries all over the world. In 1992 he emigrated to the USA but still spends time in China. While he acknowledges a debt to Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani, Hu's main aim is to express the beauty of Oriental ladies and of the old architecture and gardens of China.
|1945||Born in Beijing, China|
|1960||Attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing|
|1964 - 85||Art Director, Shanghai Animation Film Studios, Shanghai|
|1979||Founded the Haifeng Painting Association, Shanghai|
|1988||Moved to Hong Kong|
|1992||Emigrated to the USA|
|1997||Began dividing his time between Hong Kong, China and the USA|