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Huang Yao (1917 – 1987)

Huang Yao was born in Shanghai to a literati family. His ancestral roots can be traced to Huang Xiang, the famous filial son of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Huang Yao’s father, Huang Hanzhong, a calligrapher and painter gave his son early education and exposure to his many artist friends. He taught his son Chinese calligraphy, painting and classical literati studies, including history, literature, philology and philosophy.

The young Huang Yao learned to paint by copying paintings from his family’s collection; including works from Mi Yuanzhang, Liang Kai, Chen Hongshou, Shitao and Bada Shanren. Through constant practice and guided by his father and family friends, he not only mastered painting but acquired a love for all categories of Chinese paintings. His fine line painting skill was put to good use in drawing his famous cartoon character, Niubizi which he created in 1934.

On the strength of his extensive knowledge of Chinese history, literature, philosophy and art as well as his popularity as a cartoonist, Huang Yao was appointed art editor of the Shanghai Post (Xinwen Bao, the largest newspaper for business in Shanghai) when he was only 18 in 1935.

During his Cartoon Period which spanned from 1934 to the 1951, he was very active among the Shanghai cartoonists and was involved in organizing the First National Exhibition of Cartoon Art. He did an exceptionally extensive amount of anti-war work in the interior of China from 1938 to 1945; published a number of cartoons in the 1950s in both Hong Kong and Thailand; later in the 1960s, in Malaysia, he used cartoons for educating children.

In his Scholar Period from 1951 to 1967, he produced an important scholar book, The History of Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore. He helped set education policies, established adult education classes and libraries throughout the new Malaysia. He also explored ways and techniques to break out of traditional Chinese painting and researched ancient Chinese characters, leaving behind a large body of sketches.

In the Painter Period from 1967 to 1987, Huang Yao produced artworks in a variety of categories with the most important being Wenzi Hua (paintings of Chinese characters) and Ziyou Hua (abstract paintings). He also produced Folk Culture paintings, Calligraphy, foreign subjects using different Chinese painting techniques, children paintings and other traditional topics in landscape, birds and animals.

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