Chinese Painters
Selected Artists of Ancient and Modern China: 220 CE -Present.

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Man Herding Horses, by Han Gan.
From the Tang Dynasty (c.740)

For more about painters
in Asia, please see:
Asian Art (38,000 BCE on).

For short profiles of selected major
painters from ancient China, as well
as Hong Kong, Taiwan and the
modern and contemporary era of
the People's Republic of China,
involved in Buddhist and other
art forms, see the following:
Period of Disunity (221-589 CE)
Tang Dynasty (618-906)
5 Dynasties, 10 Kingdoms (907-60)
Song Dynasty (960-1270)
Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
20th Century Chinese Painters
Contemporary Chinese Painters

For information and facts about
specialist art from Asia, see:
Chinese Art
Chinese Pottery
Jade Carving
Terracotta Army Warriors
Japanese Art
India: Painting & Sculpture

Chinese Painters (c.220-present)

Here is a chronological list of selected Chinese artists, from the 4th century Period of Disunity to the 20th century Qing Dynasty and beyond. It features exponents of all the major genres of Chinese painting, such as landscape pictures, history painting, portraiture, and genre-paintings in most media including paper, silk, hemp cloth, hand-scrolls, fan paintings, and other forms. For ancient pottery painting, see: Neolithic Art in China (7500-2000 BCE), Shang Dynasty Art (c.1600-1000 BCE), Zhou Dynasty Art (1050-221 BCE) and Qin Dynasty Art (221-206 BCE). For Buddhist painting, see: Arts of the Six Dynasties Period (220-589) and Sui Dynasty art (589-618). For other areas of specialist painting, see the famous Chinese Lacquerware (from c.4500 BCE) and Chinese Porcelain (c.100-200 CE).

Chinese Painters (220-2000) (Listed by Dynasty)

Six Dynasties Period (220-589)
Successor to the era of Han Dynasty Art (206 BCE - 220 CE)
- Gu Kaizhi (c.344-c.406)
- Lu Tanwei (flourished 465-72)
- Zhang Sengyou (flourished 500-50)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Period of Disunity.

Tang dynasty (618-906)
- Yan Liben (d.673)
- Li Sixun (651-716)
- Weichi Yiseng (flourished late 7th-early 8th century)
- Wang Wei (699-759)
- Wu Daozi (flourished 710-760)
- Han Gan (c.715-781)
- Zhang Yanyuan (b.815)
- Guanxiu (832-912)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Tang Dynasty.

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-60)
- Jing Hao (c.870-925)
- Guan Tong (flourished c.907-23)
- Li Cheng (919-67)
- Dong Yuan (d.962)
- Shi Ke (d.975)
- Juran (flourished 960-85)
- Works by Unknown Painters
For short bios, see: Famous Chinese Painters: 5 Dynasties/10 Kingdoms.

Song Dynasty (960-1270)
- Fan Kuan (c.960-1030)
- Yan Wengui (967-1044)
- Xu Daoning (c.970-1051)
- Guo Xi (c.1020-c.1090)
- Su Shi (1036-1101)
- Li Gonglin/ Li Longmian (c.1049-1106)
- Li Tang (c. 1050-1130)
- Mi Fu (1051-1107)
- Zhao Danian/ Zhao Lingrang (flourished c. 1080-1100)
- Huizong (1082-1135)
- Ma Hezhi (flourished c.1131-62)
- Zhang Zeduan (flourished early twelfth century)
- Xia Gui (flourished 1180-1224)
- Ma Yuan (flourished 1190-1225)
- Liang Kai (early 13th century)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Song Dynasty.

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
- Qian Xuan (c.1235-1301)
- Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322)
- Ren Renfa (1255-1328)
- Huang Gongwang (1269-1354)
- Wu Zhen (1280-1354)
- Ni Zan (1301-74)
- Wang Meng (1308-85)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Yuan Dynasty.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
- Dai Jin (1388-1462)
- Shen Zhou (1427-1509)
- Wu Wei (1459-1508)
- Tang Yin (1470-1523)
- Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)
- Qiu Ying (c.1494-1552)
- Lu Zhi (1496-1576)
- Jiang Song (c.1500)
- Xu Wei (1521-93)
- Ding Yunpeng (1547-1621)
- Dong Qichang (1555-1636)
- Cui Zizhong (c.1594-1644)
- Xiao Yuncong (1596-1673)
- Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658)
- Chen Hongshou (1599-1652)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Ming Dynasty.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
- Wang Shimin (1592-1680)
- Wang Jian (1598-1677)
- Hongren (1610-64)
- Kuncan/ Shi Qi (1612-73)
- Gong Xian (c.1618-89)
- Bada Shanren/ Zhu Da (1626-1705)
- Wang Hui (1632-1717)
- Wu Li (1632-1718)
- Yun Shouping (1633-90)
- Daoji/ Shitao (1642-1707)
- Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715)
- Shangguan Zhou (1665-1750)
- Leng Mei (c.1677-1742)
- Hua Yan (1682-1765)
- Gao Fenghan (1683-1748)
- Zou Yigui (1686-1772)
- Huang Shen (1687-1766)
- Lang Shining/
- Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1768)
- Yuan Jiang (c.1690-1724)
- Zheng Xie (1693-1765)
- Luo Ping (1733-99)
- Tang Yifen (1778-1853)
- Ju Lian (1824-1904)
- Zhao Zhiqian (1829-84)
For short biographies, see: Famous Chinese Painters: Qing Dynasty.

Famous Modern Chinese Artists
- Qi Baishi (1863-1957)
- Gao Jianfu (1879-1951)
- Gao Qifeng (1889-1933)
- Zhu Qizhan (b.1892)
- Xu Beihong (1895-1953)
- Pu Xinyu (1896-1963)
- Pan Tianshou (1897-1971)
- Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)
- Lin Fengmian (1900-91)
- Fu Baoshi (1904-65)
- Wang Jiqian/ C.C. Wang (b.1907)
- Li Keran (1907-89)
- Lui Shoukun (1919-75)
- Wu Guanzhong (b.1919)
- Liu Guosong (b.1932)
- He Huaishuo (b.1941)
For short biographies, see: Famous Modern Chinese Painters: 20th Century.

Famous Contemporary Chinese Artists
- Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958)
- Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964)
- Yue Minjun (b.1962)
- Wang Guangyi (b.1957)
- Liu Xiaodong (b.1963)
- Cai Guo-Qiang (b.1957)
- Yan Pei-Ming (b.1960)
- Chen Yifei (b.1946)
- Fang Lijun (b.1963)
- Liu Ye (b.1964)
- Zhou Chunya (b.1955)
For short bios, see: Famous Contemporary Chinese Painters: 20th Century.


Period of Disunity (221-589 CE)

Gu Kaizhi (c.344-c.406)
Born in Jiangsu province. One of the earliest important painters of antiquity known by name. He is known primarily as a figure painter and the source of one of the two principal styles of figure painting (the source of the other being Wu Daozi). By the ninth century, Gu's style was characterised as exhibiting fine continuous line, with a sensitive rendering of character. The most famous painting attributed to him, a hand-scroll entitled The Admonitiom of the Court Instructress, in the British Museum, is probably a close copy of sixth-century provenance. Other paintings linked with his name include various copies of the Nymph of the Luo River.

Lu Tanwei (flourished 465-72)
Was active in the reign of Mingdi of the Song (465-72). Though not one of his fine art paintings has survived it has been argued that the brick reliefs portraying The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi, found in royal tombs of the Southern Dynasties at Nanjing and in Danyang county, Jiangsu province, may well be based on his work.

Zhang Sengyou (flourished 500-50)
Official in the Southern Dynasties under the Liang dynasty. Comparing his figure style with that of other early masters, Zhang Yanyuan wrote that Zhang Sengyou obtained the flesh, Lu Tanwei the bone, and Gu Kaizhi the spirit of their subjects. He painted religious and figural subjects on the walls of Buddhist and Daoist temples, and also landscapes. The Five Planets and Twenty-eight Constellations, Osaka Municipal Museum, Japan, a copy possibly made after a Tang composition, is the only surviving work associated with his name.

For the history and development of painting in China, please see: Chinese Art Timeline (c.18,000 BCE - present).

Tang dynasty (618-906)

Yan Liben (d.673)
Official who became Prime Minister under the Emperor Gaozong (649-83). As the leading figure painter of the seventh century, he is recorded as having portrayed dignitaries and tribute bearers who visited Chang'an, the Tang capital. He also helped to design the mausoleum of the Emperor Taizong (d.649), at Zhaoling, including portraits of the emperor's six favourite war steeds, which survive in the form of bas-relief sculptures. Portraits of Thirteen Emperors, a hand-scroll in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is the finest surviving example of his portrait art.

Li Sixun (651-716)
Relative of the imperial family who held high positions at court. He and his son Li Zhaodao are known for their colourful 'blue and green' landscape painting, using azurite blue, malachite green and gold. Retrospectively, Li Sixun was considered to be the founder of the Northern school of Chinese painting, as defined by Dong Qichang. Although no original works survive, the painting of Tang Ming Huang's Flight to Shu, NPM, Taipei, affords a fine example of Tang composition in the 'blue and green' manner, with tall mountains and distant plains glimpsed through narrow defiles.

Weichi Yiseng (flourished late 7th-early 8th century)
Member of the royal house of Khotan. His figure scyle was characterised by agitated draperies. A handscroll of figures in the Berenson collection, Villa I Tatti, Settignano, Italy, is associated with his name.

Wang Wei (699-759)
The most famous poet and painter of Tang Dynasty art, he is named by Dong Qichang as the source of the Southern school of painting. An official as well as an ardent Buddhist, he painted both Buddhist and Daoist subjects and retired to his escape at Wangchuan Villa. Here he apparently painted landscapes using the technical innovation of ink wash or broken ink, pomo. Although no paintings of his have survived in the original, Portrait of the Scholar Fu Sheng, Osaka, and Clearing after Snow on the River, Ogawa collection, Kyoto, are both associated with his name. For a guide to the aesthetic principles behind traditional painting in China, see: Traditional Chinese Art: Characteristics.

Wu Daozi (flourished 710-760)
Considered one of China's greatest figure painters, his style contrasts that of Gu Kaizhi. He is said to have used an impetuous brush-stroke, with thick and thin lines of uneven width and broken outlines, scattering dots and strokes to create a three-dimensional effect. Wu served as a court painter during the reign of Xuanzong (712-56). He travelled a lot and executed wall paintings in many Buddhist and Daoist temples in Chang'an and Luoyang. He is also famous as a landscape painter, but his work now survives only in rubbings from engraved stones, such as The Black Warrior (Tortoise and Snake).

Han Gan (c.715-781)
Famous painter of horses and grooms, he was summoned by Emperor Xuanzong (712-56) to paint the imperial horses. Shining White in the Night, a portrait of one of these, formerly in the collection of Sir Percival David, is his most reliably attributed work, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Zhang Yanyuan (b.815)
Wrote Lidai minghuaji (A Record of the Famous Painters of all the Dynasties) in 847 after the destruction of many Buddhist temples and their wall paintings in the religious persecution (842-5) of the Huichang reign. This work is the most important source of information on early painting and theory in China.

Guanxiu (832-912)
Monk painter, famous above all for his craggy representation of Buddhist arhats, preserved in Japan and attributed to him.

For the influence of Tang painters on the culture of Korea, please see: Korean Art (c.3,000 BCE onwards).


Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-60)

Jing Hao (c.870-925)
Landscape painter and the author of a famous treatise on painting, Bifaji. Travellers in a Snowy Landscape (excavated from a tomb), is one of his works. (Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City).

Guan Tong (flourished c.907-23)
After the fall of the Tang dynasty he became a subject of the later Liang dynasty (907-23), which ruled north China, and was admired, along with Fan Kuan and Li Cheng, as one of the three greatest landscape painters of the tenth century. Jing Hao was his teacher early in his career. In his later years he painted with a relatively free, unlaboured and sketchy brushwork. Waiting for the Ferry, NPM, Taipei.

Li Cheng (919-67)
One of the most influential masters of the Five Dynasties and early Northern Song, known for his wintry landscapes, especially for his leafless trees. He is said to have used ink very sparingly. He came from a family of scholar-officials and was himself a scholar. Probably no original works by him survive, but Lonely Monastery amid Clearing Peaks, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, is a fine Northern Song painting attributed to him.

Dong Yuan (d.962)
From Nanjing, Jiangsu province. His fame rests on his landscapes, which greatly influenced the leading masters of the late Yuan period (fourteenth century). He was later named as the leading master of Dong Qichang's Southern school of landscape painting. He and his follower Juran painted river landscapes textured with long, soft, earthy brushstrokes, his mountain slopes gently rounded and piled with boulders, moist and misty like the actual landscapes of the Jiangnan (lower Yangzi) region where he worked. Attributed paintings include Xiao and Xiang Rivers, Gugong, Beijing, and Wintry Forests and Lake Shores, Kurokawa Institute, Hyogo, Japan.

Shi Ke (d.975)
Famous for his humorous subjects and wall paintings. Ordered by the Emperor Taizu to paint Buddhist and Daoist figures in the Xiangguo monastery in the capital, Kaifeng. Two Patriarchs Harmonising their Minds, Tokyo National Museum, though possibly a later copy, is the oldest extant example of Chan (Zen) painting with garments portrayed by rough brushwork and faces delineated in fine detail.

Juran (flourished 960-85)
Monk painter and follower of Dong Yuan , using similar 'hemp-fibre' strokes, interspersed with rounded 'alum-head' boulders. Seeking the Dao in the Autumn Mountains and Xiao Yi Seizing the Lanting, NPM, Taipei; Buddhist Monastery on a Mountainside, Cleveland Museum, Ohio. The British Museum has an impressive landscape hanging scroll bearing his name but actually a twentieth-century forgery by Zhang Dagian (Chang Dai-ch'ien).

Works by Unknown Painters: Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

The British Museum has a large collection of anonymous Buddhist manuscripts, textiles and paintings which were discovered in cave 17 at the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, Dunhuang, Gansu province, in the closing years of the nineteenth century. Marc Aurel Stein, the first Westerner to visit the site after the discovery, collected some five hundred drawings, paintings and prints and over ten thousand manuscript scrolls from this cave. About two hundred of the paintings and prints are in the British Museum, the remainder in New Delhi, and the manuscripts in the British Library. Other paintings from the same source are in the Pelliot collection in the Musee Guimet, Paris, and further manuscripts in the Bibliothegue Nationale, Paris. The paintings, on silk, hemp cloth or paper, include votive paintings dedicated by lay Buddhists, as well as large compositions depicting the Pure Lands or paradises in which they hoped to be reborn. The British Museum also has a number of other anonymous religious paintings, mainly of Buddhist and occasionally of Daoist figures. Among them, The Thirteenth Arhat, Ingada (1345), and Four Arhats and Attendants (Ming dynasty, fifteenth century) are both single examples from sets of paintings of arhats or luohans, guardians of the Buddhist law often represented in China in groups of sixteen, eighteen or five hundred.

NOTE: For more about the painters of India, see the following:

Classical Indian Painting (Up to 1150 CE)
Ajanta, Bagh, Sigiriya, Badami, Panamalai, Sittanavasal, Tanjore, and Polotmaruva schools of painting, and more.
Post-Classical Indian Painting (14th-16th Century)
Gujarat illuminations, Hindu art in Orissa, and more.
Mughal Painting (16th-19th Century)
Babur, Akbar, Jahangir and Aurengzeb painters, and more.
Rajput Painting (16th-19th Century)
Rajastan, Mewar, Malva, Bundi, Kishangar painters, and more.

Song Dynasty (960-1270)

Fan Kuan (c.960-1030)
Born Huayuan, Shaanxi province. Famous for austere and grand landscapes. Together with Li Cheng, he developed the so-called monumental style of landscape. He was known for his 'raindrop' surface modelling strokes (cun). He chose to live in a barren, mountainous area in Taihua in the Zhongnan mountains. Surviving works include Travellers among Streams and Mountains, NPM, Taipei.

Yan Wengui (967-1044)
Born Wuxing, Zhejiang province. Academy painter under the third Song emperor. His style was as monumental as that of his contemporary Fan Kuan, with a show of profusion and turbulence in his paintings. Works include Temples among Streams and Mountains, NPM, Taipei; River and Mountains with Temples, hand-scroll, Osaka City Museum, Japan.

Xu Daoning (c.970-1051)
From Chang'an, Shaanxi province. Like Guo Xi, he was a follower of Li Cheng and regarded very highly by his contemporaries. His Fishing in a Mountain Stream, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, is a majestic handscroll with fishermen and travellers, a roadside inn and secluded pavilions, all dwarfed by an outlandish series of precipirous cliffs and stark mountain ranges.

Guo Xi (c.1020-c.1090)
One of the top painters during the era of Song Dynasty Art (960-1279), he was born in northern Henan province. According to his contemporaries, he was a skilful landscape painter in the Imperial Academy. He was also the author of an essay entitled 'Lofty Message of Forests and Streams', an exceedingly valuable source of information on Song attitudes to landscape and techniques of composition and brushwork. He painted landscapes after the style of Li Cheng, using texture strokes and ink wash to create the illusion of space and distance, with more complex compositions than those of earlier painters such as Fan Kuan. Mountains were the dominant elements of his compositions, changing in appearance according to the seasons; his paintings display atmospheric effects which would be further developed by the Southern Song painters. Early Spring, NPM, Taipei, is an impressive hanging scroll on silk, signed and dated 1072.

Su Shi (1036-1101)
Famous statesman, poet, calligrapher, art critic and painter of bamboo, also known as Su Dongpo. With those in his circle, such as the bamboo painter Wen Tong and the calligrapher Huang Tingjian, he established the concept of wenrenhua, that is, painting by literati, arguing that painting could share the values and status of poetry. In his view, 'natural genius and originality' were more important than form-likeness in painting. He held official posts but was also banished several times during his career. None of his paintings survive, but Dry Tree, Bamboo and Stone, Shanghai Museum, is attributed to him and provides clues to his subject matter and manner. Many examples of his calligraphy are still extant.

Li Gonglin/ Li Longmian (c.1049-1106)
Born Shucheng, Anhui province. Most famous figure painter of the Northern Song period. He painted in baimiao (outline drawing), a fine linear style derived from Gu Kaizhi, associated with historical themes and Buddhist divinities, and also in the Wu Daozi tradition with short and lively, fluctuating brushwork. He was also appreciated as a painter of horses and landscapes. Thus, Li was the firstr artist to transmit the styles of several past masters rather than that of just one, establishing classic standards in each genre. Five Tribute Horses and Grooms (present whereabouts unknown) was the finest example of his work; Metamorphoses of Heavenly Beings, British Museum, is a close copy of his style, perhaps early Ming in date.

Li Tang (c. 1050-1130)
Born Sancheng, northern Henan province. Academy painter under the Song Emperor Huizong of the Northern Song in the capital Bianliang (present-day Kaifeng) and then under Gaozong of the Southern Song at Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou). As a transitional painter, his landscapes include subjects on a smaller scale than those of the great Northern Song masters, and his techniques innovate the axe-cut stroke produced with a slanting brush. Extant works include Autumn and Winter Landscapes, Koto-in, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto; Whispering Pines in the Gorges, dated 1120, NPM, Taipei; Gathering Herbs, Gugong, Beijing.

Mi Fu (1051-1107)
Born Hubei province. An intellectual as well as a painter and calligrapher, and also known for his critical connoisseurship of paintings and calligraphy. He was the author of Huashi (The History of Painting). He painted foliage with large, wet dots and rocks with soft modelling. Only Verdant Mountains with Pine Trees, NPM, Taipei, is extant; more works survive by his son Mi Youren (1086-1165).

Zhao Danian/ Zhao Lingrang (flourished c. 1080-1100)
Descendant of the Song royal family and collector of ancient paintings. His paintings are more intimate than those of most of his Northern Song contemporaries, being on a small scale, with a simplicity of design and a new realism. Extant work: River Village in Clear Summer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Huizong (1082-1135)
Effectively the last Northern Song emperor (ruled 1101-25) before both he and his successor were captured and exiled. He was an aesthete and eminent calligrapher and painter, specialising in birds and floral still life painting. He surrounded himself with the court artists of the Academy of painting and took an active part in supervising them, neglecting state affairs. Paintings include Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (copied from the Tang dynasty artist Zhang Xuan); Listening to the Qin, Gugong, Beijing; Gardenia and Lichi with Birds, British Museum a handscroll, attributed to him but probably by a court artist, showing the colourful and close description of nature so valued at his court, and signed with the imperial cipher.

Ma Hezhi (flourished c.1131-62)
From Zhejiang province. Official at the court of the Southern Song Emperor Gaozong, who commissioned him to illustrate the Confucian classic Shijing (Book of Songs) as patt of a series of paintings with themes proving the legitimacy of his rule, in the face of the occupation of north China by the Jin. Illustrations to the Odes of Chen (British Museum) is one of the finest surviving examples of this series with ten scenes accompanied by the appropriate odes in the calligraphy of Emperor Gaozong. Two of the odes from this scroll were reproduced by Dong Qichang as models of Gaozong's writing; on some of the series the calligraphy was actually written by a court calligrapher (though attributed to the emperor himself). Ma used the so-called 'orchid leaf' and 'grasshopper-waist' style of fluctuating brushwork to depict the reverence necessary for such a canonised work of literature, transforming the fluctuating drapery lines of the Tang painter Wu Daozi.

Zhang Zeduan (flourished early twelfth century)
From Shandong province. A colophon on his sole surviving work informs us that he was a member of the Hanlin Academy, specialising in buildings, boats, carriages and bridges, etc. His extant masterpiece is the handscroll Going up the River on Qingming Day, Gugong, Beijing, a celebration of the varied and busy scenes in and around the capital of the Notthern Song, painted shortly before the city was captured by the Jin in 1126.

Xia Gui (flourished 1180-1224)
Painter, at the Hangzhou Academy, of landscapes, and Buddhist and Daoist figures. He later retired from court life to a Chan (Zen) Buddhist temple. He was a younger contemporary of Ma Yuan. Extant works include Twelve Views from a Thatched Cottage, handscroll, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; River Landscape in Rain and Wind, fan painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ma Yuan (flourished 1190-1225)
Fourth generation of a famous family at the Academy of painting and himself a foremost Southern Song painter, strongly influenced by Li Tang. The soft scenery around Hangzhou, conducive to intimate landscape scenes, encouraged painters to turn away from the monumental Northern Song landscape style. The Academy painters Ma Yuan and Xia Gui, often referred to as the Ma-Xia school, used ink washes to create effects of light and mist, employing a 'one-corner' type of composition. Their style was to influence the court painters of the early Ming dynasty, such as Li Zai, when Chinese rule was re-established after the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty. Works include Banquet by Lantern Light, NPM, Taipei; Bare Willows and Distant Mountains, fan painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Composing Poetry on a Spring Outing, hand-scroll, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City.

Liang Kai (early 13th century)
From Shandong province. Noted for his figures, landscapes, and Daoist and Buddhist subjects. 'Painter in attendance' at Hangzhou (Southern Song capital) painting academy, from 1201. Extant works: Sakyamuni Leaving the Mountains, Shima Euiuichi collection, Tokyo; The Supreme Daoist Master Holding Court, Wango Weng collection, a detailed outline sketch for a wall painting in a Daoist temple; The Sixth Patriarch Chopping Bamboo, Tokyo National Museum, a fine example of Chan subjects that became popular in Japan as Zen painting; The Poet Li Taibo, NPM, Taipei, a masterpiece of economy in brushwork.

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

Qian Xuan (c.1235-1301)
Born Wuxing, Zhejiang province. Gained the jinshi (doctoral) degree in the Jing-ding reign (1260-4) and was learned in literature and music; he never served the Mongol regime. Closely followed by Zhao Mengfu, he was the first to practise a deliberate archaism, especially in landscape. Dwelling in the Mountains, Gugong, Beijing, is in the 'blue and green' style. His flower paintings are finely detailed but with a certain blandness, shared by his calligraphy, usually inscribed on the same paper as the painting itself. Extant works: Young Noble on a Horse, British Museum; Pear Blossoms (formerly Sir Percival David collection), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Early Autumn, Detroit Institute of Art, Michigan.

Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322)
Relation of the Song dynastic royal family who nevertheless took office under the Yuan dynasty, for which he was much criticised. He was the foremost calligrapher and painter from the era of Yuan Dynasty art (1279-1368). In painting he followed the lead of Qian Xuan in cultivating the 'spirit of antiguity', but his art could only have been possible at this time. For instance, Autumn Colours at the Qiao and Hua Mountains, NPM, Taipei, was painted for a friend who, because of the Jin rule of north China in the Southern Song period, had never been able to travel to his native district. The Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu, Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey, reflects Zhao's own ambivalent position by portraying a 4th-century scholar-recluse who served at court yet preserved the purity of his mind. The Water Village, dated 1302, Gugong, Beijing, exhibits the unified ground plane and simplified brushwork that would be emulated by late Yuan masters of landscape.

Ren Renfa (1255-1328)
From Songjiang, Jiangsu province. Bureaucrat and painter of horses and landscapes. His inscription on Fat and Lean Horses, Gugong, Beijing, likens the two horses to different types of official, one who grows fat in office, the other who gives his all to serve the people.

Huang Gongwang (1269-1354)
Born Jiangsu province. One of the four masters of the late Yuan. Along with Wu Zhen, Ni Zan and Wang Meng, he pioneered a landscape style that was to inspire countless variations by later painters, bringing landscape wholly within the repertoire of the scholar-painter or wenren. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, dated 1350, NPM, Taipei, is his most famous work, displaying a limited range of motifs to create a monumental composition of rivers, forests and mountain ranges of unlimited scope.

Wu Zhen (1280-1354)
Another of the four masters of the late Yuan. His landscape paintings are, like those of Huang Gongwang, in the tradition of Juran and Dong Yuan. They show the use of a well-soaked brush and deliberate, rounded strokes and dots. The NPM, Taipei, has a number of his paintings including Twin Junipers, The Central Mountain and Stalks of Bamboo beside a Rock.

Ni Zan (1301-74)
Third of the four masters of the late Yuan. Also a poet, calligrapher and landscape painter. From a wealthy family in Jiangsu province, he gave up his fortune to lead a simple life on a boat. He is famous for his dry ink brushwork executed with a slanted brush, and for his sparse dots of intense black. The Rongxi Studio, dated 1372, NPM, Taipei, and Autumn Clearing over a Fishing Lodge, Shanghai Museum, both exhibit his favourite subject, a small pavilion with bare trees, and favourite compositional scheme, with foreground rocks, a stretch of water and distant hills.

Wang Meng (1308-85)
Grandson of Zhao Mengfu, from Zhejiang province, surviving briefly into the Ming dynasty and dying in prison. A landscape painter in the style of Dong Yuan and Juran, and one of the four masters of the late Yuan, his main contribution to Yuan painting is the portrayal of mountains as colossal features, exuberant, executed with an extremely varied and rich repertoire of brush techniques, in contrast to the spare and dry style of Ni Zan. His
Qingbian Mountains, dated 1366, is in Shanghai Museum; Dwelling in Summer Mountains, at Gugong, Beijing.


Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Dai Jin (1388-1462)
From Qiantang (Hangzhou). Modelled his landscape style on that of Ma Yuan and Xia Gui of the Southern Song. In the Xuande reign (1426-35) he served for a short time at court. Despite the overtones of the Academy style, his brushwork is distinctively free and lively. Surviving paintings include: Fishermen on a River, Freer Gallery, Washington DC; Returning Late from a Springtime Walk, NPM, Taipei.

Shen Zhou (1427-1509)
Earliest and leading master of the Wu school. He preferred to live in retirement in Suzhou than to serve at the Ming court. A talented calligrapher and poet, as well as a painter, he used the brush styles of the late Yuan landscape paintets as vehicles for his own expression, being especially at home with that of Wu Zhen, while also striving to emulate the economy of Ni Zan's brushwork. Besides landscapes, he is known for his figure drawing from life, such as the Album of Plants, Animals and Insects (sixteen leaves), dated 1494, PM, Taipei.
Misty River and Layered Ranges, Liaoning Museum, is a handscroll in the grand Song manner; Lofty Mount Lu, 1467, NPM, Taipei, has all the density and richness of texture associated with Wang Meng . At other times, Shen Zhou's depiction of actual places has a refreshing simplicity, capturing essential features with a minimum of detail. Peach Blossom Valley (attributed), British Museum provides some idea of his brushwork and large calligraphy modelled on the style of the Northern Song calligrapher Huang Tingjian.

Wu Wei (1459-1508)
Worked in Jiangxia, Hubei province (where he may have moved from Hunan). His patron in Nanjing, the Duke of Chengguo, was a great collector in whose collections Wu studied the refined baimiao ink mono-chrome, linear figure style of Li Gonglin which is apparent in many of Wu's early paintings such as the handscroll, The Iron Flute, 1484, Shanghai Museum. Serving at court in the Hongzhi reign (1488-1505), his version of the Ma-Xia style of landscape painting found favour, and became popular, making him a leading master of the Zhe school. His mature style was characterised by swift, even brash, brushwork later much criticised by Dong Qichang. The Pleasures of Fishing, Gugong, Beijing, is a fine example of his mature style. The British Museum has several paintings acquired when Wu Wei's work was not highly regarded by Chinese collectors, the most important being the handscroll, Strolling Entertainers, and Lady Laoyu with the Luan Phoenix.

Tang Yin (1470-1523)
From Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Pupil of Zhou Chen (d.1536) who also taught Qiu Ying. Tang Yin was befriended by the father of Wen Zhengming and moved among Suzhou's literary circles. He was renowned for his portraits of women and for impressive landscapes inscribed with poems in his distinctive hand. See Thatched Cottage at West Mountain, British Museum.

Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)
From Suzhou, Jiangsu province. One of the greatest Ming painters and calligraphers, and the most important painter of the Wu school after his teacher Shen Zhou. He served briefly at court after unsuccessfully attempting the tightly constrained state examinations ten times. As a calligrapher, he was egually at home with running script in large or over-sized characters and with precise small regular script. In painting he was equally versatile, bringing finer detailing and a lyrical use of colour to Shen Zhou's landscape style and depicting also figures, ink bamboo and other literati subjecrs. His followers of the Wu school in the 16th century included several members of his own family. See: Washing the Feet in the Sword Pool, British Museum; Wintry Trees, British Museum; A Thousand Cliffs Vying in Splendour, NPM, Taipei; A Myriad Valleys Competing in Flow, Nanjing Museum.

Qiu Ying (c.1494-1552)
Born Taicang, Jiangsu province, and lived in Suzhou. Named with Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming and Tang Yin as one of rhe Four Masters of Suzhou, he was a professional painter and pupil of Zhou Chen, as well as being at home with literati painters. He was a brilliant figure painter and equally skilled in landscapes in the archaic 'blue and green' manner, on account of which many later imitations of this style are signed with his name. The different aspects of his art are illustrated by Zhao Mengfu Writing the Sutra in Exchange for a Cup of Tea, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Passing a Summer Day in the Shade of Banana Palms, NPM, Taipei; and Saying Farewell at Xunyang, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City.

Lu Zhi (1496-1576)
Born Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Landscape painrer and poet, follower of Wen Zhengming. He apparently never held office and eventually retired to a mountain retreat on Mount Zhixing, near Suzhou, where he continued to paint. In his landscapes of the Suzhou region, Ni Zan was evidently an inspirarion to Lu Zhi who emulated his angular, faceted forms and dry brushwork, often adding a pale vermilion or pale green. See; Huqiu Shan Tu (Tiger Hill), Gugong, Beijing; Landscape in the Style of Ni Zan, Brirish Museum.

Jiang Song (c.1500)
From Nanjing. Zhe school painter who captured in his landscape paintings 'all the mists of Yiangnan'. Like other Zhe school painters, he was out of favour with collectors in the Qing dynasty and Taking a Lute to Visit a Friend, British Museum had the original signature and seals removed, and a label added attributing it to Xu Daoning of the Song dynasty; but the ink wash foliage of the foreground trees, and other details, are unmistakably those of Jiang Song.

Xu Wei (1521-93)
One of the greatest painters during the era of Ming Dynasty art, born in Shanyin, Zhejiang province. Poet and calligrapher who excelled at plants and flowers in a free or even wild ink wash manner, which was to be a major influence on the painting of Bada Shanren. Ink Flowers, long handscroll on paper, Nanjing Museum, is one of his major works, culminating in a magnificent stand of banana palms.

Ding Yunpeng (1547-1621)
Born Xiuning, Anhui province. Ding was a professional painter of landscapes, figures and particularly Buddhist and Daoist subjects. The God of Literature, 1596, British Museum is an example of his refined and detailed figure painting in ink monochrome; his paintings in colour are equally accomplished. The wood block-printed book, Chengshi Moyuan, contains some notable designs for ink cakes. Imitations of his work are fairly common among Buddhist and Daoist figure subjects.

Dong Qichang (1555-1636)
Born Yiangsu province. The dominant figure of Chinese painting in the late Ming and thereafter. Beginning with the study of calligraphy, he went on to search for and analyse the surviving masterpieces of Song and Yuan painting, with the aim of restoring ancient values to the painting of his own day. Clarity of composition, clear outlines and appropriate motifs were of the greatest importance to him. In the course of authenticating old paintings, he wrote extensively and proposed the theory of the Northern and Southern schools. According to his theory, literati painters should follow the Southern school exclusively, relying on brushwork and eschewing excessive detail or painterly effects. He was followed by Wang Shimin, who executed a large album of reduced copies of Song and Yuan paintings in his own collection under Dong's guidance, and by other painters of the Orthodox school, such as Wang Jian, Wang Hui and Wang Yuangi. The short handscroll, Rivers and Mountains on a Clear Autumn Day, after the Yuan painter Huang Gongwang, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, is a fine example of his style and approach to past masters. The British Museum has a Landscape and a hand-scroll (attributed) of studies of rocks and trees, with notes written beside them.

Cui Zizhong (c.1594-1644)
Major figure painter of the late Ming dynasty, usually paired with Chen Hong-shou - ('Cui in the north and Chen in the south'). Cui was an independent artist following no particular school; a solitary and aloof character, somewhat of a recluse who eventually starved himself to death rather than ask for help. He was probably a member of a Daoist sect and painted many scenes from Buddhist and Daoist literature and legends. His figures often refer to antique models and he concentrated on eccentric archaisms in an original way. See: Xu jingyang Ascending to Heaven, NPM, Taipei.

Xiao Yuncong (1596-1673)
From Anhui province. The first of the Masters of Xin-an, and an yimin or 'left-over' subject after the fall of the Ming dynasty. The early Qing monk painter Hongren , another of the Anhui masters, was his pupil. Works include: Reading in Snowy Mountains, Gugong, Beijing; Frosty Woods, handscroll, British Museum.

Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658)
Born Yiaxing, Zhejiang province. Son of the great collector Xiang Yuanbian (1525-90), his paintings exhibit rather precisely delineated features and elegant colour in both landscapes and flower paintings. his Reading in the Autumn Woods, dated 1623-4, is in the British Museum.

Chen Hongshou (1599-1652)
From Zhuji, near Shaoxing in Zhejiang province. On failing the official examinations, he began to concentrate on his painting in order to earn a living. Early on he developed a distinctive style and a creative transformation of the past that would identify him as an artist worthy of notice. His figure paintings were based on archaistic paintings of historical or Buddhist subjeCts. He was paired from his stay in Beijing (1640-3) with the artist Cui Zizhong ('Cui in the north and Chen in the south'). He was best known as a painter of figures working in the fine linear style of the 4th-century master Gu Kaizhi, but he also painted landscapes and designed wood-cut illustrations and playing cards. His Female Immortals is at Gugong, Beijing. In the British Museum, besides several attributed works, there is a fine album leaf, Landscape, datable and a large hanging scroll, Chrysanthemums.


Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Wang Shimin (1592-1680)
Born Jiangsu province. Because he himself had a large collection of old masters, Wang Shimin was the best placed of the Orthodox masters to put the theories of Dong Qichang into practice. He did so in a famous album of exact copies, in reduced size, entitled Within the Small See the Large, NPM, Taipei, for which Dong wrote the title and inscriptions. In his own landscape paintings, Wang Shimin's preferred style is derived from that of the Yuan master Wang Meng. The British Museum's Landscape, dated 1654, is inspired by the brush manner of another Yuan master, Huang Gongwang.

Wang Jian (1598-1677)
Born Jiangsu province. The second of the Four Wangs in the group of six Orthodox masters, specialising like Wang Shimin in landscapes after Song and Yuan masters. Landscape after Juran, British Museum exemplifies how the Orthodox masters used ancient styles and motifs (here those of the 10th-century master Juran), to produce variations in their own distinctive hands.

Hongren (1610-64)
From Anhui province. One of the Four Monk painters (with Bada Shanren, Kuncan and Daoji), a Ming loyalist who became a monk when the Ming dynasty collapsed. He was the first painter to display a distinctive Anhui style, and was especially fond of painting Mount Huang, one of China's most spectacular mountains. The album by him in the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, features individual landscape elements each labelled with a single character. The Coming of Autumn, Ching Yuan Chai collection, China, shows the same precision in a complete landscape composition.

Kuncan/ Shi Qi (1612-73)
Born Hunan province. Individualist and one of the Four Monk painters (with Hongren, Bada Shanren and Daoji). He early became a Chan (Zen) Buddhist monk and eventually abbot of a monastery near Nanjing. His paintings are characterised by crowded and restless compositions in which the landscape is broken up into numerous mountain ridges, valleys and rocky outcrops. His brushwork has a dry earthy quality which is frequently enriched by coloured washes. Autumn and Winter, two album leaves, British Museum were done for a friend, Cheng Zhengkui, in 1666 and are among his finest works. Spring and Summer, completing the set of four, are now in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, and the Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, respectively.

Gong Xian (c.1618-89)
One of the Eight Masters of Nanjing, and an yimin or left-over subject of the Ming dynasty, who belonged to a restoration society and subsequently became a recluse. In his rather sombre landscape paintings he merged ink washes with 'piled ink' or layers of brushwork, creating a monumental effect. A Thousand Peaks and a Myriad Ravines, c.1670, Drenowatz collection, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, shows him at his most claustrophobic; the British Museum has a more open Lake View.

Bada Shanren/ Zhu Da (1626-1705)
Another of the Four Monk painters and a major figure in Qing Dynasty art (1644-1911). He was a scion of the Ming royal house and hence another an yimin or left-over subject when the Ming dynasty fell in 1644. His early paintings include albums of flowets and rocks, with recondite poems, and are signed with a variety of obscure names. Later he used quizzical depictions of birds and fish to allude to his distress under Manchu rule, also painting lotuses with broken stems, and ink landscapes. The British Museum has a hanging scroll, Rocks and Wutong Seeds and a small Landscape.

Wang Hui (1632-1717)
The most versatile of the Orthodox painters, coached and encouraged, even to the point of passing off his paintings as Song or Yuan originals, by Wang Shimin and Wang Jian. At court in the 1690s he was in charge of producing the series of massive handscrolls describing the Kangxi emperor's Tours of the South. The British Museum has only a small fan painting of his, but the anonymous handscroll, Snow Landscape, bearing the signature of Fan Kuan, is perhaps close to Wang Hui's oeuvre.

Wu Li (1632-1718)
Born in Jiangsu province. Friend and contemporary of Wang Hui and one of the leading Orthodox painters of the early Qing. Together with Wang Hui he was instructed by Wang Jian and Wang Shimin and through them became acquainted with and influenced by the landscapes of the Four Masters of the Yuan dynasty, particularly Wang Meng. His orthodoxy was shown in his admiration for the ancient masters, yet he believed in manipulating the styles of the Song and Yuan masters to create an intensely personal style. Wu's paintings were much admired by his contemporaries. He eventually became a Jesuit priest in 1688 after which time he apparently painted relatively little. His Pine Wind from Myriad Valleys is in Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio.

Yun Shouping (1633-90)
Flower and landscape painter, friend and near contemporary of Wang Hui, and linked with the Four Wangs and Wu Li as an Orthodox master. Deferring to Wang Hui in landscape, he is known chiefly for his paintings of flowers in the 'boneless' technique.

Daoji/ Shitao (1642-1707)
Descendant of the Ming imperial family. The fall of the Ming dynasty left him a wanderer, and he is known as one of the Four Monk painters (with Hongren, Kuncan and Bada Shanren). His Huayulu is one of the most important of Chinese writings on painting, which he discusses from his concept of 'the single brushstroke'. In the same work, he strenuously defends his own originality: 'the beards and eyebrows of the ancients do not grow on my
face'. His handscroll painting in the Suzhou Museum, Ten Thousand Ugly Ink Dots, bears an inscription in which he declares his purpose to shock the past masters such as Mi Fu. Many of his paintings, such as Eight Views of the South, Brirish Museum, are closely linked with his own wanderings in early life; they are frequently complemented with his calligraphy in different styles to match the brushwork of the paintings.

Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715)
Born Jiangsu province. Grandson of Wang Shimin. Landscape painter, youngest and arguably the most original of the Four Wangs. Perhaps his greatest work is the large coloured recreation of the handscroll, Wang Chuan Villa, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, a long-lost masterpiece of the Tang poet and painter Wang Wei, then, as now, known only from a rubbing and late copies.

Shangguan Zhou (1665-1750)
Born Changting, Fujian province. Primarily a painter of somewhat rustic figures and landscapes, exemplified by the handscroll in the British Museum, The Fisherman's Paradise. Huang Shen was his pupil.

Leng Mei (c.1677-1742)
Born in Jiaozhou, Shandong province. Professional court painter, specialising in figure painting. He is associated with the Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione (known in China as Lang Shining), and introduced him to Chinese painting. His Wutong Shuangtu Tu (Two Rabbits Beneath a Wutong Tree) is at Gugong, Beijing. Paintings in the British Museum include: Portrait of a Lady; Manchu Official at the Door of his Library.

Hua Yan (1682-1765)
From Fujian province. Poet and calligrapher as well as painter, noted for his lively and meticulous renderings of birds, but also skilled at figures and landscapes. The Red Bird, Elliort collection, Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey; Mynah Birds and Squirrel, Freer Gallery, Washington DC.

Gao Fenghan (1683-1748)
Born Jiaoxian, Shandong province. Known early on in life for his poetry. He had an official career but never rose very high in rank. His right arm became paralysed in 1737 and thereafter he painted with his left hand. The British Museum has a fine set of fan paintings of landscapes and flowers, all painted before this event and an album of Flower Paintings after Designs from the Ten Bamboo Studio.

Zou Yigui (1686-1772)
Court painter under the Qianlong emperor (ruled 1736-96) who commissioned him to paint a pictorial colophon, Pine and Juniper Trees, British Museum at the end of the Gu Kaizhi handscroll, The Admonitions of the Court Instructress, regarded as the most valuable painting in the whole of the Palace collection, being installed by the emperor with just three others in a separate pavilion in the Forbidden City. Though now separately mounted, it came to the British Museum with Gu's painting, and also bears the Qianlong emperor's seals.

Huang Shen (1687-1766)
Born Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. Pupil of Shangguan Zhou, and one of the Yangzhou Eccentrics. He painted figures and landscapes with lengthy inscriptions in a distinctive cursive hand. Surviving works include: Laozi (Ning Qi) and His Ox, and The Nine Dragons Rapids.

Lang Shining/ Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1768)
Born Milan, Italy. Castiglione became a Jesuit priest in 1707. He arrived in Macao in 1715 and then went to Beijing where he remained until his death. There he became part of the group of Western advisers at the Chinese imperial court. He painted for three emperors, Kangxi, Yong-zheng and Qianlong, and also trained Chinese artists in Western techniques. Of all the missionary arrists who worked for the Qing emperors, Castiglione was pre-eminent. His paintings combined traditional Chinese watercolour techniques with the Western use of linear perspective and chiaroscuro. He excelled in religious painting, portraiture and the painting of animals, flowers and landscapes. See: Ten Horses and Nine Dogs, NPM, Taipei.

Yuan Jiang (c.1690-1724)
Born Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. Specialised, like Yuan Yao and Li Yin, in large landscapes, often with prominent architectural features, and composed in a grand manner reminiscent of the monumental landscape style of the Five Dynasties and Song. However, his brushwork, especially in the outlines of rock forms, betrays mannered forms that cannot be mistaken for Song work. Penglai, Island of the Immortals, dated 1723, British Museum is a typical example of his treatment of legendary subjects.

Zheng Xie (1693-1765)
Born Yangzhou. Famous for paintings of subjects such as orchids and bamboo, interspersed with calligraphy in which the characters often display unusual variations. Orchids on Rocks, Crawford collection, New York. The British Museum has a handscroll, Chrysanthemums, Bamboo and Epidendrum, attributed to him.

Luo Ping (1733-99)
Born Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. Called himself the 'Monk of the Flowery Temple'. He is regarded as one of the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou and became a student of Jin Nong, another of the Eight Eccentrics. He travelled to Beijing, acquiring many patrons along the way, and was also a good calligrapher and seal carver. He painted many portraits and one of his famous works is Guiqu Tu (a series of paintings of ghosts and spirits). Paintings in the British Museum: Portraits of the Poets Wang Shizhen and Zhu Yizun; Monk under a Palm Tree.

Tang Yifen (1778-1853)
Born Wujin, Jiangsu province. Tang's style belongs to that of those who in the 19th century were still followers of the Orthodox tradition of the 17th Century. The subject matter of the garden was a popular one in China, where the garden was seen as a microcosm of the larger landscape, and the British Museum has a large handscroll entitled The Garden of Delight with many contemporary colophons.

Ju Lian (1824-1904)
Born Guangdong province. Influenced by the Jiangsu painters such as Song Guangbao and Meng Jinyi who had come to Guangdong co teach painting, Ju Lian and his cousin Ju Chao became masters in the painting of flowers, insects and plants. Ju Lian was especially prolific in painting landscapes and figures. He and his cousin improved on the style of painting known as 'boneless': by sprinkling a white powder on to coloured areas they produced a bright and somewhat glossy surface (zhuangfen) and by dripping water on to applied colours while they were still wet they created subtle tonal gradations (zhuangfei). See: Flowers, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong.

Zhao Zhiqian (1829-84)
Born Zhejiang province. Famous seal carver, poet and calligrapher. Also established himself through his flower paintings as one of the foremost painters of the 19th century.

NOTE: See also the two great Japanese Ukiyo-e artists from the Tokugawa Shogunate of the Edo Period in Japan: Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858).


Famous Modern Chinese Artists

Here is a selected list of important twentieth-century Chinese artists from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the West.

Qi Baishi (1863-1957)
Born Hunan province. Began life as a carpenter, and became a prolific painter of flowers, shrimps, crabs, insects and birds. As he remained in China after 1950 and painted everyday subjects, adding his own calligraphy and seals also carved by himself, he became the best-known painter of the mid-twentieth century. The British Museum has a fine study of Bodhidharma in a red robe, as well as flower paintings from his hand.

Gao Jianfu (1879-1951)
Born Panyu, Guangdong province. Together with Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren (1883-1949), was one of the three founders of the Lingnan school in Guangdong province. They were all influenced by earlier Qing painters such as Ju Lian, Ju Chao and Meng Jinyi, and all three also studied in Japan from 1906 to 1911, returning to participate in the revolution. They pioneered a new Chinese movement in painting whereby they advocated the use of Western
perspective and chiaroscuro, and Japanese brush technigues, while still employing Chinese traditional ink and colour. Their pupils include Zhao Shao'ang and Li Xiongcai. Sepia, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong.

Gao Qifeng (1889-1933)
Born Panyu, Guangdong province. The brother of Gao Jianfu. He studied art in Japan and learned painting from his brother, with whom he formed part of the Lingnan school. See: Cockerel and Hen under a Begonia Tree, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong.

Zhu Qizhan (b.1892)
Born Taicang, Jiangsu province. Member of the Shanghai Painting Academy. As a student Zhu studied Western oil painting and later concentrated on traditional Chinese styles. He paints landscapes and flowers in the bold brush style of Shanghai painters of the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of his landscapes are distinguished by the use of vivid colour.

Xu Beihong (1895-1953)
Born Jiangsu province. Major figure in the modernisation of Chinese art. He visited Europe and Japan and held a series of key teaching positions where he advocated the study of realism. The theme for which he is best known in the West is horses, whose spirited movements he captured through rapid and abbreviated brushwork and ink washes. In China, his horses became a symbol of the indomitable national spirit. See: Two Horses, British Museum.

Pu Xinyu (1896-1963)
Born Beijing. A descendant of the Daoguang emperor, he received a classical education and a traditional training in Chinese painting. His paintings are based on the literati landscape tradition of the late Ming and early Qing but he also studied the work of the Song landscape masters. In 1949 he moved to Taiwan, and during the 1950s was regarded as the island's leading painter. He had many students, including Jiang Zhaoshen (b.1925).

Pan Tianshou (1897-1971)
Born Ninghai district, Zhejiang province. Received no formal training in painting or calligraphy but learned from painting manuals such as the Qing dynasty work, the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. In 1923 he went to Shanghai and taught at the Shanghai art college, and his works were influenced by masters of the Shanghai school. His painting followed traditional styles of landscape and bird and flower painting.

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)
Born Sichuan province. Versatile master of painting and assiduous collector, who courted controversy in his personal life through his many forgeries of some of the most famous painters of the past, particularly of the individualist 17th-century painter Daoji/Shitao. Two years spent at Dunhuang in the 1940s left him with a deep appreciation of bright colour and a lifelong interest in figure painting. One of his best-known forgeries is the large landscape, Dense Forests and Layered Peaks by the Monk Juran from Zhongling, signed
as Juran, in the British Museum. Another BM Landscape illustrates the more abstract style of his late years, when he lived in Brazil and California.

Lin Fengmian (1900-91)
Studied in France, returned to China but finally settled in Hong Kong. He wrote extensively on painting, trying to synthesise and harmonise the different qualities of Chinese and Western art. He painted mainly single figures in a sguare format adapted for framing rather than in the traditional Chinese scroll format.

Fu Baoshi (1904-65)
Born Jiangxi province. Educated in China and Japan. He was a calligrapher of note and also cut seals. As a teacher he wrote several books on painting and is regarded as one of the last great literati painters. Mountain Landscape, British Museum and Scholars Suffering from Hardship were both painted during the war years, when he was living in Sichuan province.

Wang Jiqian/ C.C. Wang (b.1907)
Born in Jiangsu province. Connoisseur, collector and well-known landscape painter who has lived in New York since 1950. He has formed the extensive Bamboo Studio collection, some of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Yotk. Odes of the State of Chen by Ma Hezhi was acquired from his collection by the British Museum.

Li Keran (1907-89)
Born Jiangsu province. Born into rural poverty, he painted water buffalo and herd boys in his early years. His later paintings were generally in black ink, an intensely inked surface becoming one of his trade-marks, as well as an innovative use of deeply saturated ink and colour. He was originally a leading exponent of traditional landscape painting, re-establishing the style within the Communist theoretical framework. In the 1960s he developed his own landscape style, adapting Western, conventional perspective. See: Landscape in Colours and Landscape Based on Chairman Mao's Poem, both in the Drenowatz collection, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Switzerland.

Lui Shoukun (1919-75)
Born Guangzhou, China, but emigrated to Hong Kong in 1948. He was a Chan (Zen) Buddhist adherent and painted in many styles including those of the classical past. He was influenced by Western art, including Cubism, and had a number of followers such as Irene Chou (born 1924).

Wu Guanzhong (b.1919)
Born Jiangsu province. Studied figurative oil painting in China and then in Paris from 1947 to 1950. On his return to China he took up landscape painting. He sought to find common ground between Chinese and Western techniques, using both line and colour, often with descriptive details, to ensure that a Chinese viewer would recognise the subject matter of more abstract works. In 1990 he turned once more to life studies, with a hint of landscape in the setting. The British Museum has a large horizontal format painting, Paradise for Small Birds.

Liu Guosong (b.1932)
Born Shandong province. An early advocate of anti-traditionalism, aspiring to be a painter in the Western tradition. He attained his maturity in Taiwan and found solutions blending Eastern and Western traditions and incorporating contemporary subjects such as space travel. He modelled his work after Matisse and Picasso, and was also influenced by Klee, De Kooning and Rothko. He has sometimes used a special coarse fibre paper and an ink-laden brush, tearing fibres from the surface after painting to enhance the calligraphic effect.

He Huaishuo (b.1941)
Writer, and pupil of Fu Baoshi. Studied painting in Guangzhou. He believes in communicating emotion through his paintings, and in covering the whole picture surface, in contrast to traditional Chinese paintings where a balance of solids and voids is sought.

Famous Contemporary Chinese Artists

Among the many talented painters and sculptors from the People's Republic of China, involved in contemporary art, watch out for the following. See also: Top 200 Contemporary Artists.

Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958)
Number 5 in the 2008 list of the World's Top contemporary artists, Zhang Xiaogang is noted for his surrealist paintings, influenced by Salvador Dali, as well as his Bloodline series of paintings, featuring formal monochrome portraits of Chinese subjects. In 2006, a 1993 painting by Zhang Xiaogang featuring blank-faced family members from the mid-1960s was sold for $2.3 million.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964)
Number 6 in the list of the World's Top contemporary artists, Zeng Fanzhi is noted for his figurative works employing a combination of expressionism and realism, as well as his sequence of ironic Great Man paintings, which includes Lenin, Mao, and Karl Marx among others.

Yue Minjun (b.1962)
Number 7 in the list of the World's Top contemporary artists, Yue Minjun is a major member of the Chinese "cynical realist" school - one of the avant-garde contemporary art movements in China - noted for his bizarre and distinctive series of doppelgänger painters.

Wang Guangyi (b.1957)
Number 9 in the list of the World's Top contemporary artists, the "political pop" artist Wang Guangyi combines popular consumer logos with the style and aesthetic of communist agitprop propaganda posters.

Liu Xiaodong (b.1963)
From Liaoning. Contemporary fine art painter and photographer. Has generated auction sales (2007-8) in excess of £10.5 million.

Cai Guo-Qiang (b.1957)
Performance artist specialising in explosive events. Has generated art sales (2007-8) in excess of £10 million.

Yan Pei-Ming (b.1960)
Shanghai portraitist. Has sold works for more than £9.5 million (2007-8).

Chen Yifei (b.1946)
Contemporary Chinese painter from Zhejing, responsible for art sales at auction of over £9.5 million (2007-8).

Fang Lijun (b.1963)
Contemporary Chinese painter from Hebei, one of the leading members of the Cynical Realism movement. Has sold paintings worth more than £9 million (2007-8).

Liu Ye (b.1964)
Avant-garde Chinese artist, responsible for art sales at auction of over £8.5 million (2007-8).

Zhou Chunya (b.1955)
Sichuan Portrait painter. Has sold works worth more than £8 million (2007-8).

Note: The British Museum has an active acquisition policy in collecting modern art by Chinese artists, aiming eventually to assemble a collection representative of all the major twentieth-century painting movements in the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and elsewhere. Apart from the paintings mentioned above, the British Museum also has works by these 20th-century artists: Jia Youfu, Nie Ou, Wu Changshi, Xiong Hai, Yang Yan-ping and Zhu Xiuli from the People's Republic of China, and Jiang Zhaoshen and Yu Peng from Taiwan.

We gratefully acknowledge the use of appendix material from The British Museum Book of Chinese Art (2007) edited by Jessica Rawson (British Museum Press): an absolutely essential work of scholarly reference for any student of painting, sculpture, ceramic pottery, calligraphy and decorative art from ancient China. We strongly recommend it.

• For more about landscape painters and other artists in China, see: Homepage.

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