Fang Zhaoling was a Chinese painter and calligrapher born in Wuxi,Jiangsu Province in Eastern China. The eldest of two daughters from an affluent family, she lost her father at a young age when he was assassinated amidst political and social upheaval in China during the 1920’s. With the support of her mother, who provided a remarkably liberal education to her daughters, Fang began studying calligraphy and painting at the age of 13 under the private tuition of Tao Bofang and Madam Yang Sizhen. She also later studied birds and flowers under Chen Jiucun and landscape painting under Qian Songyan during her time at Wuxi Art College.
In 1937, Fang was accepted to enter the University of Manchester, UK and it is here that she met Fang Xingao (方心誥; 1913 – 1950), the son of well-known anti-Japanese General Fang Shuping. They were married in 1938 and went on to have eight children, six boys and twin girls. Each of her children went on to lead distinguished careers, most notably the eldest, Anson Chan, who became the Chief Secretary of the British Colonial Government of Hong Kong and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under Chinese rule until 2001.
When the Second World War broke out, the family left the UK for the US, later returning to Shanghai and then Hong Kong. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong Fang escaped with her family and took refuge in Guilin, Guiyang, Chongqing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The many upheavals and hardships they faced during this time made it impossible for Fang to paint for almost 10 years.
The family settled back in Hong Kong in 1948 but in 1950 Fang Xingao died suddenly leaving Fang to raise eight young children and run her husband’s import/export business. Following his death, Fang resumed her painting becoming a student of the Lingnan School master, Zhao Shao’ang, where she painted mainly birds and flowers, and then in 1953 she became a pupil of Zhang Daqian, one of China’s most celebrated artists.
From the 1950’s to the 1960’s, Fang lived and travelled extensively in Europe and the US, studying Western painting and experimenting with oils. It was during this time that her works began to shift emphasis from birds and flowers to landscapes and a number of new style paintings were created. She resumed studies with Zhang Daqian in 1970 and toured the West Coast of the USA with him. Fang made numerous visits back to China during the 1970’s both to meet other artists and to gain inspiration for her works. She developed a style using calligraphic lines and forms to illustrate mountains and rocks, instead of using traditional methods of ink strokes, that was distinctly her own and can be seen in her later works.
Fang Zhaoling passed away on 16th February 2006 in Hong Kong.
2017 Asia Society, Justice Drive, Hong Kong, Painting Her Way: The Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling
Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong, DESIRING – Post 97 Hong Kong Ink Art
2016 Hong Kong Central Library, Hong Kong, Celebrating 35 Years of Promoting Chinese Contemporary Art
2014 Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK, Paintings by Fang Zhaoling, A Century Exhibition
RECENT AUCTION RESULTS
- “Spring Boating”, 137cm x 70cm, Ink and Watercolour on Paper, 1982
- US$237,180 Poly Auction Hong Kong, June 2014
- “My Homeland” 176.5cm x 96cm, Ink and Watercolour on Paper, 1987
- US$120,750 Christie’s Hong Kong, May 2016
- “Physical Training”, 96.5cm x 57.5cm, Ink and Watercolour on Paper, 1985
- US$112,790 Christie’s Hong Kong, November 2014