Jun 20 2014

Influential Burmese artist Khin Maung Yin Dies at 76

by Kitty van Leeuwen

Self portrait by Khin Maung Yin, the Burmese artist who led the county’s modern art movement. Courtesy Gallery 65, Yangon.

On June 10, Khin Maung Yin, one of Myanmar’s most admired and influential artists, died at the age of 76 from throat cancer. The painter was famous for his colorful paintings and portraits, as well as his eccentric character. In a 2010 biography, author Ma Thanegi describes Khin Maung Yin as: “more artist than man. He dismisses luxury or material possessions as superfluous.” Khin Maung Yin is considered to have led Myanmar’s modern art movement, together with artists including Win Pe and Paw Oo Thet and Khin One.

Khin Maung Yin studied architecture at the University of Yangon and worked as an architect before quitting in order to pursue his painting practice full time. A self-taught artist, he was influenced by abstract expressionism—his best known works are from the portrait series of the Aung San Suu Kyi, which depict the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize laureate in a child-like manner and with a sharp sense of color.

Khin Maung Yin’s unique sensibilities are remembered through various personal anecdotes, including his habit of wiping paint off of his brushes onto his front door—which he eventually chose to turn into a painting. Artists and friends recalled these quirks with fondness at the last major exhibition of the the artist’s work, held last November, at Gallery 65 in Yangon, in honor of his 75th birthday.

The Khin Maung Yin’s vision made him popular among many generations of students and collectors and his free spirit, well reflected in his paintings, will continue to inspire.