Influential Burmese Artist Kin Maung Yin Dead at 76

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 10 June 2014

RANGOON — Kin Maung Yin, one of Burma’s leading contemporary artists, lost a battle with throat cancer on Tuesday and passed away at the age of 76.

Recognized as a leader in the first generation of Burma’s modern art movement along with Win Pe and Paw Oo Thet, Kin Maung Yin is a legend in Burmese contemporary art today.

“All I know about art is that simplicity is perfection,” he once said, and indeed, many of his paintings are almost childlike in their simplicity. Still, his art features unexpected colors, unique styles and timeless flourishes that have become an inspiration to younger artists.

A “self-taught painter,” Kin Maung Yin began painting in the 1960s but trained earlier as an architect, gaining an appreciation for form and color that would later influence his art.

Among his works, probably the most well-known are those from a portrait series of the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, featuring mask-like faces and elongated forms inspired by the Italian modernist Amedeo Modigliani.

Kin Maung Yin was known not just for his paintings but also for his monk-like devotion to art alone and a proclivity for a hermetic life of solitude. He lived alone in a one-room wooden house in northern Rangoon, and is survived by no immediate family members.

During an interview with The Irrawaddy last year, he said hoped to live for another five years: “That’s enough, as I have been through so many years,” he said.

Sadly, with his death at age 76 on Tuesday at Rangoon’s Pinlon Hospital, it would seem his wish will go unfulfilled.