Born in Zhejiang, China, Yuan studied Fine Arts at University of Tokyo. From 1936 to 1940, she majored in oil painting at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. During her stay in France, she participated in Salon de Printemps and Salon des Indépendants. She then returned to China to teach at Chongqing National Academy of Fine Arts, and at Chongqing Normal University in 1943. In 1949, Yuan was Associate Professor at Department of Fine Arts of National Taipei University of Education in Taiwan, and in 1956, Professor at Department of Fine Arts of National Taiwan Normal University.
Yuan was invited by UNESCO to join delegations on study tours. In 1986, monthly magazine “Sinorama” praised Yuan as “watcher of the art circle” for her contribution to art education. Her biography was included in “Who’s Who in World”. Famous Chinese artist Huang Junbi described that Yuan masters the use of colors and lights and the spirit of traditional Chinese paintings is finely combined in her oil paintings.