Ray Ching

New Zealand b.1939

Raymond Ching, who was born in Wellington, New Zealand, is considered one of New Zealand’s greatest contemporary bird and figure painters.

After dropping out of high school aged twelve, Ching gained an internship at an advertising practice, eventually working his way up to art director. However, Ching eventually grew dissatisfied with this occupation and turn his focus into becoming a full-time painter. His favoured subject matter at the time was birds, after Ching had become especially fascinated with a collection of stuffed hummingbirds which he discovered during a school trip to the museum whilst at primary school. Such an insignificant experience soon evolved into the main focus of Ching’s artistic career.

Ching first exhibited his bird paintings in Auckland in the 1960s. His first exhibition, Thirty Birds, in 1968 was a sell-out, with Ching attracting the attention of Sir William Collins of Collins Publishing. Sir William, a keen ornithologist, invited Ching to the United Kingdom to produce a book of his bird paintings. However, upon his arrival, Ching also came into contact with the publishers of The Reader’s Digest who, along with Collins Publishing, intended to produce a major book on the birds of Britain. Ching was commissioned to paint 230 full-colour studies, and The Reader’s Digest Book of British Birds, published in 1969, became the world’s most successful and biggest selling ornithological book.

This enthusiastic reception led Ching to produce a series of natural history books, including The Bird Paintings in 1978, The Art of Raymond Ching in 1981, Wild Portraits in 1988, and Kiwis in 1990. Ching adopted a scientific approach to these bird paintings, with the artist frequently going out into the field to study the birds in flight and in their natural habitat. Ching is also known to work from stuffed birds in his studio.

Now settled in Wiltshire, Ching continues to paint birds and animals, as well as remarkable life-like portraits. Working primarily in oils and watercolours, Ching’s works are incredibly detailed with an almost photographic quality. Merging realism with fictional compositions, Ching slowly builds up his paintings layer upon layer, often leaving the underdrawing peeking through the transparent paint.

Ching exhibits regularly in New Zealand and around the world, including Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in the USA; Brighton Art Gallery and Museum, England; and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. His paintings are held in numerous private and public collections, such as the National Museum of Wildlife Art in the USA, and portraits from his exhibition ‘A True Story’ are held in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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