One-Stroke Cat Artist: Ding Yanyong (Chinese, 1902–1978)

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Asian Art

Not on view

Born in Guangdong Province, Ding Yanyong’s artistic education began when he went to study painting in Japan, where he learned about avant-garde art. He adopted Henri Matisse as his model and was hailed as “the Matisse of the East.” Then, he found inspiration in the humor and simplicity of the artist Bada Shanren (1629–1705) and became known as “the Bada Shanren of the present.” His works in ink and oil became a lifelong exploration of synthesizing Eastern and Western art, and his cursive script was unrestrained and fluid. As seen here, he adopted the calligraphic “flying white” brushwork to suggest the texture of rocks. Ding took this further by developing “one-stroke paintings” (筆畫), in which a single stroke accentuates the contrast between two-dimensional lines and three-dimensional forms, unique to this series of paintings. In one quick stroke, an animal is drawn—vivid, humorous, quirky, and “clumsy” (拙). Notice how Ding painted the entire cat in one stroke, starting with the right ear and ending with the tail. Then, on the upper left, notice how the long, straggly, single brushstroke makes writing a part of the painting. This union of painting and calligraphy is unique to Chinese art.


Ink on paper, calligraphy in cursive script


27 1/4 × 18 1/8 in. (69.2 × 46 cm)

Credit Line

Lent by H. Christopher Luce, B.A. 1972

Loan number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



H. Christopher Luce, New York (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2018–)
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