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Selections Birds, Flowers, Fish, and Insects

Most works by Lingnan School artists involve traditional bird-and-flower and fish-and-insects subject matter. This special exhibition includes about fifty such works, the most among all four categories here.

Most paintings by the cousins Ju Chao and Ju Lian, pioneers of the Lingnan School, show them to be quite adept at the style of the early Qing master Yun Shouping, often using the "boneless" method of colors for bird-and-flower subjects. But they also developed new techniques of adding water and powder to the washes before drying, allowing water and colors to fuse naturally and create a visual aesthetic suggesting great imagination. Such works in this exhibition as Ju Chao's "Ripe Lichees and the Sound of a Cicada" and Ju Lian's "Floral Bundle" testify to the realization of this unusual manner.

The "Two Gao's of Lingnan" both liked to use scorched ink and dry brushwork to render leaves and branches, achieving a bold and direct effect in their works. Paintings with inscriptions particularly and consistently reflect a style of "using painting methods to do calligraphy," a representative example of which is Gao Jianfu's "Two Chickens Under Bean Stalks." Gao Qifeng's "Peacock" and "Crane" also both emphasize light washes and rich gradations of colors to counter the stereotype that Ming and Qing dynasty bird-and-flower painting was in decline.

The arrangement of Chen Shuren's bird-and-flower painting is likewise pure and refreshing, featuring brushwork succinct and neat to serve as a contrast with that of the Two Gao's. Such works in the exhibit as "After a Rain" and "Willow and Magpie" belong to this type of style.

The art of the "Two Gao's and One Chen" is not only directly inherited from that of the "Two Ju's," but because these artists had traveled to Japan to study and came in contact with both traditional Japanese art and Western painting styles, they were influenced by a revolutionary consciousness in art that has continued up to recent times.

The bird-and-flower paintings of second-generation Lingnan School artists, such as "Lotus Blossoms" by Yang Shanshen and "School of Fish Chasing Falling Petals" by Zhao Shao'ang, have bright and moist colors that not only follow the Lingnan tradition of adding water and pigments to moist washes, but also inject them with Western elements for a rich and new period significance.


Lichees and the Sound of a Cicada (New window)

Lichees and the Sound of a Cicada

  • Ju Chao (1811-1865), dated 1847
  • Fan album leaf, ink and colors on silk, diameter: 26.8cm
  • Collection of the Guangzhou Museum of Art

Ju Chao, style name Shijie and sobriquet Meisheng, was a native of Panyu in Guangdong (now part of Guangzhou). Gifted at poetry and excelling at calligraphy, he was especially good at painting, his landscape, flower, and bird subjects all elegantly beautiful with grass-and-insect subjects particularly refined. He traveled with Zhang Jingxiu to Guangxi, where he viewed authentic paintings by Song Guangbao and Meng Jinyi. Influenced by them, the bird-and-flower paintings that Ju Chao did were sketched from life with light touches of the brush for a pure and untrammeled beauty, serving as a forerunner for the Lingnan School of painting.

Lichees hang down into the composition, the "impacting water" method used to render the leaves and fruit, creating a reciprocal contrast between green and red, respectively. The cicada on the fruit is done with fine brushwork, sounding off into the void. Even the thin transparency of the cicada's wings has been portrayed. The lichees ripening and appearance of a cicada mean that summer has arrived, suggesting a painting brimming with the atmosphere of summertime.


Chickens Under Chrysanthemums (New window)

Chickens Under Chrysanthemums

  • Ju Chao (1811-1865), dated 1865
  • Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 121x49cm
  • Collection of the National Palace Museum

Ju Chao, style name Shijie and sobriquet Meisheng, was a native of Panyu in Guangdong (now part of Guangzhou). Gifted at poetry and excelling at calligraphy, he was especially good at painting, his landscape, flower, and bird subjects all elegantly beautiful with grass-and-insect subjects particularly refined. He traveled with Zhang Jingxiu to Guangxi, where he viewed authentic paintings by Song Guangbao and Meng Jinyi. Influenced by them, the bird-and-flower paintings that Ju Chao did were sketched from life with light touches of the brush for a pure and untrammeled beauty, serving as a forerunner for the Lingnan School of painting.

This painting was done by Ju Chao at the age of 55 by Chinese reckoning. To express the atmosphere of an evening scene, the artist strived in making the colors light and simple, using large quantities of wash to create haloes that set off the pure moon. Many have said that Ju Chao often worked in the "boneless" style of washes used by the early Qing dynasty artist Yun Shouping (1633-1690) to create a pure and elegantly classical style. With this work as testimony, it would appear that such a critique is not unfounded.


Flowers (New window)

Flowers

  • Ju Lian (1828-1904), dated 1887
  • Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 76.5x34.6cm
  • Collection of the National Palace Museum

Ju Lian, style name Shigang and sobriquet Guquan, was a cousin of Ju Chao and also a native of Panyu in Guangdong. In his youth he studied painting and calligraphy from Ju Chao. When Ju Chao was visiting in Guangxi, Ju Lian also came under the influence of the styles of Song Guangbao and Meng Jinyi, carving a seal for "Between Song and Meng" to express his kinship with them. Ju Lian excelled at the technique of adding water and pigment to still-drying washes; the coloring in his depictions of lady, grass-and-insect, and flower subjects was beautiful, the brushwork precise and complete for a lively style of his own. With Ju Chao, they are known as the "Two Ju's" and renowned as forerunners of the Lingnan School of painting.

This painting, donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Chu Ming-yuan, is a traditional "New Year's Painting." It depicts a garden rock with narcissi as well as peonies in full bloom within a tall vase, suggesting the idea of "Peace with wealth and rank." The blossoms and leaves were first rendered in heavy colors using "boneless" washes, and then light and quick strokes used for the outlines to represent a sense of vitality for them.


Dew on a Spider Web in the Early Morning (New window)

Dew on a Spider Web in the Early Morning

  • Gao Jianfu (1879-1951), dated 1928
  • Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 120x55.2cm
  • Collection of the Guangzhou Museum of Art

Gao Jianfu (named Lun with the style name Jueting and better known by his sobriquet Jianfu) was a native of Panyu in Guangdong (part of modern Guangzhou). In his early years he learned under Ju Lian and later went to Japan for further studies. He spent his life practicing and teaching how to "balance Chinese and foreign, blending ancient and modern" for a "new Chinese painting." The main founder of the Lingnan School, he is known along with Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren as the "Two Gao's and One Chen" and the "Three Masters of Lingnan."

A spider web was here rendered with strong yet fine lines using white pigment to suggest dew early in the morning. The tree leaves were done with the technique of "impacting water," while the tree trunk was outlined in dark ink, the flowers rendered in heavy colors. Spider webs are not often seen in traditional Chinese painting, so this represents a bold attempt by Gao Jianfu.


Flowers (New window)

Flowers

  • Chen Shuren (1884-1948), Gao Jianfu (1879-1951), et al., dated 1928
  • Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 101.4x45cm
  • Collection of the National Palace Museum

Chen Shuren (named Shao, going by the style name Shuren, sobriquet Jiawai yuzi) was a native of Panyu in Guangdong. In early years he studied under Ju Lian, afterwards traveling to Japan and studying at the Kyoto City School of the Arts and Tokyo Rikkyo University. Advocating a "new Chinese painting," his style took on a pure and remote air. One of the founders of the Lingnan School of painting, he along with Gao Jianfu and Gao Qifeng are known as the "Two Gao's and One Chen" and the "Three Masters of Lingnan."

This is a cooperative work of "picked-stem" flowers done by six artists, with Chen Shuren doing the osmanthus, Gao Jianfu the day lily, Rong Zhongsheng (1872-1942) the cockscomb, Zhang Yi (1869-1943) the orchid and bamboo, Luo Zhongpeng (dates unknown) the plum blossoms, and Li Qing'en (1879-1929) adding chrysanthemums and an inscription. To make the painting more harmonious, Chen Shuren and Gao Jianfu both altered their usual styles, using a more elegant brush manner for their renderings. Combined with the poetic inscriptions by Li Qing'en, Zhang Yi, and Chen Shuren, the work as a whole overflows with the traditional style of literati.


Red Leaves (New window)

Red Leaves

  • Chen Shuren (1884-1948), dated 1932
  • Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 99x43.8cm
  • Collection of the National Palace Museum

Chen Shuren (named Shao, going by the style name Shuren, sobriquet Jiawai yuzi) was a native of Panyu in Guangdong. In early years he studied under Ju Lian, afterwards traveling to Japan and studying at the Kyoto City School of the Arts and Tokyo Rikkyo University. Advocating a "new Chinese painting," his style took on a pure and remote air. One of the founders of the Lingnan School of painting, he along with Gao Jianfu and Gao Qifeng are known as the "Two Gao's and One Chen" and the "Three Masters of Lingnan."

This painting depicts the branch of a maple tree extending diagonally into the composition, the leaves having already turned red in autumn. On the branch is perched a sparrow looking upwards. The coloring is exceptionally pure and light with the arrangement of colors uniquely conceived.

This painting from 1932, when compared to others by Chen, indicates that he did many works on the subject of red leaves and birds during the 1930s. The poetic inscription here is also seen in such works as "Red Leaves" in the Hong Kong Museum of Art and "Autumn Leaves and Wintry Bird" in the Guangzhou Museum of Art.

The recipient of this painting was General Ho Ying-chin (1890-1987; style name Jingzhi), a native of Xingyi in Guizhou. His daughter, Ms. Ho Li-chu, abided by her father's wishes and donated his collection of painting and calligraphy to the National Palace Museum in 1988.


Lotus Blossoms (New window)

Lotus Blossoms

  • Yang Shanshen (1913-2004)
  • Mounted painting, ink and colors on paper, 69x136.4cm
  • Collection of the Guangzhou Museum of Art

Yang Shanshen, a native of Taishan in Guangdong, met Gao Jianfu in his early years and became strongly influenced by him in terms of art theory and practice. Yang once traveled to Japan and studied at the Domoto Arts College in Kyoto. After completing his studies, he returned to Hong Kong and devoted himself to art. Over the following decades, he traveled around the world, taking Nature as his teacher and achieving complete mastery to blaze a trail of his own in art. Along with Zhao Shao'ang, Li Xiongcai, and Guan Shanyue, they are known collectively as the "Four Masters of Lingnan."

This painting depicts several lotus blossoms with some ready to bloom and others already bursting forth. The petals were outlined in light ink, to which white powder and pink washes were added. The three lotus leaves were done in azurite, malachite, and ochre. The painting is delicate and rich with the subjects standing out both elegantly and harmoniously, creating a natural and orderly scene.


School of Fish Chasing Falling Petals (New window)

School of Fish Chasing Falling Petals

  • Zhao Shao'ang (1905-1998), dated 1969
  • Mounted painting, ink and colors on paper, 119.7x62.5cm
  • Collection of the Guangzhou Museum of Art

Zhao Shao'ang, named Yuan and style name Shuyi, was a native of Panyu in Guangdong. In early years he studied under Gao Qifeng, later devoting himself to the practice and teaching of Chinese painting. He was invited many times to hold painting exhibits and give lectures around the world. His works absorb the virtues of various painters, consolidating elements of Chinese and Western art to appeal to different tastes. Along with Li Xiongcai, Guan Shanyue, and Yang Shanshen, they are known collectively as the "Four Masters of Lingnan."

A school of fish swims about several fallen blossoms, which the fish appear to chase after. The backs of the fish are done with ink washes and ochre for the fins, the light ink and ochre washes creating a background most beautifully highlighting the pure delight of fish in water. This delicate and animated painting captures the spirit through form, featuring both the essence and appearance of fish swimming.