Hongnian Zhang

15th Annual ARC Salon (2020-2021)

Hongnian Zhang

United States

Hongnian Zhang       (pronounced “Hung Nyen” “Jahng”)

            a.k.a.  Zhang Hongnian                                                               b. 1947


Hongnian Zhang is a Chinese American realism painter, whose works are beloved in both America and China. His oil paintings are in private, public and museum collections in both countries.


Zhang’s formal artistic training was in China’s Central Art Academy.  The Cultural Revolution interrupted his career as an artist:  Zhang and his classmates were sent to the countryside for four years of hard labor.  Returning to Beijing in 1974, he was selected to work for the Beijing Fine Art Academy. His specialty was large-scale multi-figure painting. Eventually, Zhang began to examine his painful memories of the Cultural Revolution by painting scenes that truthfully depicted his experience. These works caught the public’s attention and heart. Two of them, No! and We Were Young Then, were acquired by China’s National Art Museum for their permanent collection. These paintings started the “Scar Art” movement in China.  Traveling in the early 1980s as an artist for the Academy, he was one of the first artists to paint Tibetan people.  His Tibetan scene Preparing for Winter was acquired by China’s National Art Museum in 1982.


He moved to America in 1985. In 1986 he was in the first show to introduce Chinese oil painting to the West. “Realism from China” at Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City attracted national attention.


Zhang stayed in America and became a citizen. His subject matter has expanded to include American as well as Chinese contemporary life.  He is also known for his large-scale paintings of both American and Chinese history.  His most recent history painting, The Travels of Marco Polo, was commissioned by the National Museum of China.  Several of his Chinese history paintings were commissioned by and are in the permanent collection of the National Geographic Society.


In 2000, Zhang and his wife, the artist Lois Woolley, co-wrote The Yin Yang of Painting, which presents his methods and philosophy of painting. In 2008, The People’s Fine Arts Publishers (Ren Min Meishu) Publishing Company selected Zhang for their Living Masters series of Chinese Contemporary Distinguished Oil Painters.  He has taught at the New York Academy of Art, and at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art.  In 2010-2016, Zhang divided his time between America and China with commissions and teaching commitments in both countries.


Now he happily enjoys his American life.


* This statement has been provided directly by the artist in association to their 15th International ARC Salon entries. This content has not been edited for typos or grammatical errors and has not been vetted for accuracy.