Nie Ou was born in Shenyang, Liaoning Province in 1948. In 1954, Nie Ou and her family moved to Beijing where she started painting lessons at the Beijing Municipal Children's Palace. When the Cultural Revolution erupted, she was sent to Yanbei, a remote area on the northwestern plateau of Shanxi Province, where she lived the life of the peasants. Living and working in the field was strenuous but it was in this remote land, far from the chaos of the capital that she found peace of mind and, ultimately, her inspiration. There are rarely vestiges of the city in her paintings. Instead, images of barren houses and snow covered country roads constitute most of the compositions. In looking at Nie Ou's painting, one can recall a familiar past, something of one's childhood and their universal appeal lies in their ability to remind us of our long-forgotten innocence, certainly a refreshing getaway from our hectic lives.
In 1978, she moved back to Beijing from Shanxi and entered the Painting Department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Under the tutelage of Lu Chen, Nie Ou received formal training in traditional Chinese ink painting. In 1981 after graduation, she joined the Beijing Painting Academy as a Professional Painting Master.
Nie Ou's paintings have been exhibited extensively throughout China and Asia, as well as in Europe and the United States. Her paintings appear regularly at auction in Hong Kong. Works by Nie Ou have been placed in a wide array of internationally recognised private and public collections, most notably the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the British Museum.