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Y Ba Nyan 1897-1945

We are fortunate indeed to have for sale on 9th December two beautiful watercolours of Myanmar/Burmese scenes by the hugely influential Y Ba Nyan. There are two quotations from Burmese authoritative writers that state his importance to the development of art in Myanmar/Burma. Sadly, as you will read, most of his work was bought by the British and was lost in the war, so little of his art remains. When the National museum held a commemorative exhibition in 2017, it could only find six paintings by him.

Royal College of Art

Wei Yan Aung wrote, “Born in 1897 in Irrawaddy Division’s Pantanaw Township, Y Ba Nyan was the first Myanmar artist to go to the Royal College of Art in London in 1921, during the colonial period. He had drawn the portraits of the King George V and colonial governors such as Sir Spencer Harcourt Butler, Sir Reginald Hugh Dorman-Smith, and Sir J.A Maung Gyi.

Lost art

Though Y Ba Nyan had drawn many paintings depicting the landscapes and lifestyles of Myanmar, most of them were bought by the British and lost during World War II. Few of his paintings can be found today. “It was Y Ba Nyan who brought Western techniques to Myanmar. Our masters and Myanmar’s legendary artists such as U Ngwe Gaing, U Ba Kyi, U Thein Han and U Aung Khin were U Ba Nyan’s students. So, it is undeniable that Y Ba Nyan is the master of entire Myanmar art world,” academy-winning director and artist Soe Moe said.

Huge influence

Artist Ni Po Oo, secretary of the committee organizing the exhibition, said: “The academic painting technique which is commonly used by Myanmar artists today was systematically brought by Y Ba Nyan from London. Though we could not learn directly from him, we inherited his techniques from his students, passed down from generation to generation.”

Yin Ker wrote. “In the immediate years of political independence corresponding to the publication of these contentious illustrations, it was the impressionistic oil and watercolour paintings of Y Ba Nyan (1897–1945) that set the tone for “art”, not any classical Myanma wall painting. Indeed, by the end of the Second World War, there were already many painters who excelled at the techniques of linear perspective, chiaroscuro and sfumato using imported media like watercolour on paper or oil on canvas, and whose magazine illustrations demonstrated mastery over the Western figurative mode of picturing the world.”

The auction will take place on Monday 9th December 2019. Click here to view the catalogue For more information, please contact Jonathan Riley of Grand Auctions.