Chen Yifei [陈逸飞] 1946-2005, famous Chinese classic painter, director and fashion designer, is a central figure in the development of Chinese oil painting and is one of China's most renowned contemporary artists. Although he was denounced for 'capitalist behavior' Chen's obvious talent and mastery of oil painting techniques won him recognition by the authorities. Chen soon became one of the leading painters of the cultural revolution, he was famous for his big Mao portraits and depiction of grand heroic events of the modern Chinese nation. After the Cultural Revolution Chen became the forerunner of a new age in Chinese aesthetics, promoting a new sense of modernity and lifestyle in his paintings as well as in fashion, cinema and design.
In his oil paintings Chen abandoned his uncritical glorification of the party to blend realistic technique and romanticism with Chinese subject matter, especially melancholic and lonely women in traditional dresses. His characteristic "Romantic Realism" paintings use dark and dense colors and convey a sense of richness and integrity. Chen studied in the United States for several years and then returned to Shanghai where he stayed and worked incessantly until the early death at the age of 59. His early death left intellectual circles in shock and highlighted his major role in the Chinese contemporary art scene.
In 1984, the New York Times and Art News used the expression ‘Romantic Realism’ to describe the style of Chinese artist Chen Yifei, a graduate of Shanghai Fine Art School who had completed his artistic education in the United States where he soon rose to stardom. From the viewpoint of Western audience, Chen’s reputed “romantic-realist” works testify to the liberation of Chinese artists from the bondages of political dominance, the artistic translation of their thoughts, emotions and life experience, which foretelling the blossoming of realistic oil paintings in the kaleidoscopic art scene of modern China.