Yan Pei-Ming (born 1960, Shanghai, China) was the second of four children. He grew up during the Cultural Revolution and started to paint in his spare time. He showed promise as a painter at a young age, excelling in art studies in secondary school. As per the rules of the new regime, he was required to attend propaganda classes wherein students with exceptional drawing skills were obliged to make posters of their communist leader Mao Zedong and his Red Guards. He applied for admission to the Shanghai Art & Design School but was rejected due to his stutter. In 1980 he left Shanghai for France, where he enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts, graduating in 1999.
"I am more interested in simplified, minimalist things. Because in portraits, when the colour is taking away, it becomes another world, it creates a distance between the representation and the reality." —Yan Pei-Ming
Yan Pei-Ming creates large-scale works depicting real and imaginary people. Yan’s portraits, typically mono- or bi-chromatic, often verge on abstraction, with broad, patterned brushstrokes and drips of paint. He is perhaps best known for his monumental self-portraits, including Double (Selfportrait at the Morgue), 2006, a watercolor of the artist as a dead man, as well as his eight-foot-tall portraits of Mao Zedong, Bruce Lee, his father and, more recently, Barack Obama. Often executed in expressions of mourning or sorrow, the portraits encompass a combination of Eastern and Western influences.