OP12: Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn

  • James W. Ellis Hong Kong Baptist University
Keywords: Abstract Expressionism, Asian American Art, Seattle, The Northwest School, West Coast Regionalism


Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn were Asian American artists who made major contributions to the two most important movements in American art between 1930 and 1960—Regionalism and Abstract Expressionism. Today, however, art historians and the general public have largely forgotten them. Chong and Chinn worked in close collaboration during the 1930s and 1940s and invented a new watercolor style: using Chinese ink painting techniques and evocative calligraphic poetry to portray everyday subjects from the Western United States. The art historical literature overlooks these innovative artworks, which were a unique form of West Coast Regionalism. The artists also gave instruction on Eastern aesthetics to Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson, who were later grouped together as core members of the “Northwest School” and became very well-known for producing Asian-inspired Abstract Expressionism. The members of the Northwest School eclipsed Chong and Chinn—their friends, teachers, and, arguably, artistic equals. Art historians must examine how the Western artistic canon is determined, and ask why the history of American art includes certain artists, while excluding others of equal merit. This essay will reevaluate Chong’s and Chinn’s rightful places in twentieth century visual culture, and, in so doing, revise Asian American and modern American art histories.


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Author Biography

James W. Ellis, Hong Kong Baptist University

Dr. James W. Ellis is a Research Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s Academy of Visual Arts. Dr. Ellis was born in the United States, and earned his Ph.D. in Art History from Case Western Reserve University, after studying at Rice University (M.A.), and the University of Houston (B.A. with Honors).  Thereafter, Dr. Ellis earned a J.D. from New York City’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, and practiced criminal and family law for several years before resuming his academic career, which has included undergraduate instruction and research. Dr. Ellis’s publications focus on 20th century art in the United States, particularly social realism and Asian-American modern art.


How to Cite
Ellis, J. W. “OP12: Fay Chong and Andrew Chinn”. American Studies Journal, May 2019, //ojs.sub.uni-goettingen.de/index.php/ASJ/article/view/43.