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 Andrew Chinn  (1915 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: Washington / China      Known for: Floral landscape, pop-art painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Seattle, Washington to Chinese parents from the village of Toyshan, Canton, China, Andrew Chinn was a painter, linocut artist and teacher who formed The Andrew Chinn Studio of Art in 1953.  From this school, which he operated for five years in his studio and for the remainder of his career, he espoused traditional Chinese approaches with emphasis on learning the 'basics' such as composition, perspective, precise drawing and calligraphy.  Chinn also taught watercolor painting at the Seattle Central Community College.

His early subjects included landscapes, still lives, and birds with lotus leaves, and later in his career he painted many landscapes of scenes around Seattle.  Watercolor was a favorite medium.

He was the second of their children and arrived five years after they emigrated to America.  His mother died from the flu epidemic when he was three years old, so his grandfather took the children back to China where Andrew stayed until 1927 when he returned to Seattle for two years, and then returned to China, but came back to Seattle in 1933.  In China he did watercolors and some plein-air painting, an influence brought to China from artists who had studied in Europe.

In China during his childhood, he had very strict education from a school master, and his uncle encouraged his artistic talents.  In Seattle, he and six other artists formed the Chinese Art Club, and shared a studio at 815 Jackson Street, and had monthly exhibitions from 1933 to 1937.  The other members were Seung Eng, Young Eng, Fay Chong, Lawrence Yun, Henry Eng, and Yippie Eng, and primarily they worked in the traditional Asian style.

In the 1930s, Chinn was also part of the Federal Art Project, called the Washington Project of Arts, and the director was Bruce Inverarity who invited Chin into the Project.  Among Chinn's artist associates were Morris Graves, Guy Anderson, Carl Morris, Jacob Elshin, Fay Chong and Hilda Deutsch.

Following this period, Andrew Chinn enrolled at the University of Washington, where an important influence was Walter Isaacs, Dean of the School of Art who gave Chinn an award for his excellence in portrait painting.  Other teachers were Igo Hart, Johannes Molzahn, Ray Hill and Ruth Penington, who taught him lettering.  While a student, Andrew Chinn began exhibiting at the Northwest Annual exhibition of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters.  His submissions, many of them plein air, were landscapes with trees, rocks, water and mountains, and expressed his reverence for nature.  As a result of the positive reception to his paintings, he was voted into membership of the Puget Sound Group.

For thirty-one years, Andrew Chinn worked for the Boeing company where artist-workers including Chinn formed the Boeing Art Club that included western painter Don Crowley.  Chinn also continued with his painting and exhibited many times at the Annual Exhibition of the Frye Museum of Art.  He also had two one-man exhibitions at the Frye Museum and one at the Seattle Art Museum.

When asked about his classical Chinese brush painting that had the insertion of calligraphic characters, Chinn explained: ". . .sometime you feel so good you write poetries in there. Sometime it's only description of the time you paint it.  Always date. See, your signature's in there; your chop is in there."

Matthew Kangas, 1991 Interview with the Artist in Seattle, Washington for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Obituary. The Seattle Times, January 16, 1996

Andrew Chinn, 80, Painter Of Nature, Art Teacher
By Carole Beers
Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Nature nourished Andrew Chinn in every way: emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

He spent much time on or near lakes, calmed by their stillness.

He took inspiration from lake scenes for his paintings, rendered in Chinese brushstrokes with Western color and design elements.

He fished for bass, sending copies of his wife's best bass recipes with their Christmas cards for years.

And he restored his happy attitude via outdoor sojourns.  Even a morning on the tennis court, rain or shine, energized Mr. Chinn - a Boeing illustrator by trade until he retired in 1977, a painter by choice.

His passion was far from private: He exhibited art in major venues including the Frye Museum, and taught art classes for 50 years.

"He was very much an outdoor person," said his son Dennis Chinn, of Bellevue. "My mother is a bridge player and she tried to teach him bridge, but it was a frustrating experience. He wanted to be outdoors . . . celebrating the beauty of nature.

"He regarded his art as his lifetime achievement," said Dennis Chinn.

His son last year opened the Andrew Chinn Gallery so people always could access his work.

Mr. Chinn, 80, died of heart failure Tuesday, Jan. 9, while teaching art at Seattle Central Community College.

Artist Jess Cauthorn said Mr. Chinn was "very proud" to belong to the Puget Sound Group of the Northwest Painters group for 50 years.

"Andy was the last of the first vanguard of Asian-American artists," Cauthorn said. "He was able to keep a high level of Orientalism in his work, resisting the trend to too much Western influence."

Cauthorn said Mr. Chinn never had a bad word for anyone else - gallery owner or colleague. "And that's a trait I'm not sure many other artists have."

Mary Chinn, Mr. Chinn's wife of 55 years, said her husband painted directly within a scene, not from sketches or photos.  His favorite lake was Big Lake, near Mount Vernon in Skagit County.

"He found it has the best scenery of any lake in the Western Hemisphere," she said. "He had traveled to lakes all over. He loved water. That's why it's in all his paintings."

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