Xiaoyong Zhao is a professional painter from Hunan Province, China. Born 1972, he developed a passion for painting as a little boy. His parents remember Xiaoyong Zhao always collecting scraps of paper to draw on. While others were riding bikes, he collected papers and sharpening pencils.
His professional life as a painter began in 1996 when Xiaoyong Zhao came to Shenzhen’s Dafen Oil Painting Village in southern China. Here he started to exclusively reproduce Van Gogh’s works for 20 years. By his own estimate Xiaoyong Zhao painted over 100,000 copies during that time. At one stage his entire family was in the business of reproducing Van Goghs.
Xiaoyong Zhao was first introduced to a wider audience through an award-winning photograph. In 2006, the photographer Yu Haibo photographed Zhao Xiaoyong’s workshop. The portrait of Zhao won the second prize in the arts category of the 49th WORLD PRESS PHOTO AWARD.
Since then Xiaoyong Zhao has been more and more in the international spotlight with countless reporters from around the world writing about his work. He has also been featured on TV in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas many times.
Over the years Zhao developed a deep admiration for Van Gogh. He says he started to engage with each image on a deeper level and yearned to learn more about the person he copied a dozen times a day.
His love of Van Gogh’s works made Zhao dream of visiting the Van Gogh Museum. This dream came true in August 2014. Just before his visit, the Chinese filmmaker Yu Haibo started to produce a documentary about Xiaoyong Zhao’s life.
The film “China’s Van Gogh” An intimate portrait of a peasant-turned oil painter transitioning from making copies of iconic Western paintings to creating his own authentic works of art was in the official selection of the 2016 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival.
The 2014 visit of the Museum changed Zhao’s life forever. “It was like I had a conversation with Vincent and it became clear to me I need to embark on a new journey to create original art” Zhao says. Something he has not done since becoming a professional artist.
After a transitional period where he painted both copies and original art, he is now focused on his original art.
In 2018 Xiaoyong Zhao decided to dedicate 18 months to produce a body of work reflecting his life’s journey. This body of work will consist of over 50 paintings. Once completed, the paintings will be shown in China, North America and Europe.
To focus on this task, Xiaoyong Zhao has decided to remove himself from the hustle and bustle of his Shenzhen gallery. He wants to use the solitude of a small studio to channel his energy.
While on this new journey, Xiaoyong Zhao also decided to not sell any of his paintings. “I want to present my new self to the world in the most comprehensive way possible”, Zhao says. During this time select works of his are only available as “future options”, meaning any artwork a collector desires to purchase today will not be handed over until they are shown in his vernissage.