Yang Xiaoyang was born in 1958 in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. He was admitted to the Department of Chinese Painting of the Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts in 1979, graduated in 1983 and began his postgraduate study there in the same year. After graduation in 1986, he worked as a lecturer. Later, he served as the deputy director and director of the Department of Chinese Painting, the vice president in 1994 and acting president of the Academy in 1995. In 1997, he became the president, professor and doctoral supervisor of the Academy. In 2009, he was transferred to be the president of the China National Academy of Painting.