Chen Xiaonan (1908-1993) was born in Liyang, Jiangsu Province. From 1927-1929, he studied at the Wuxi Art School, and from 1930-1934 he studied painting under Xu Beihong at the Arts Department of the Nanjing Central University. He joined the China Literature and Art Society in Nanjing in 1935, and after its move to Chongqing in 1937, he joined the Chinese Literature and Art Battle Field Sketch Batallion to make sketches on the Henan front. Later, he became a research assistant at the China Fine Arts Academy established by Xu Beihong. Chen moved to England in 1940 for further studies. Upon his return to China in 1950, he joined the teaching staff at the Central Art Academy. He became Deputy Head of the Xu Beihong Memorial Hall in 1953. In 1961, he transferred to the Guangzhou Art Academy where he became a professor in the Block print Department.
Chen was known for his block prints, etchings and Chinese painting.