Chinese art: Ren Xiong (1820-1857)

Ren_Xiong_Self_Portrait sat18

What a painting this is! Ren Xiong (任熊) was born in Xiaoshan, Zhejiang Province in the west of China. It is a self-portrait.

He is the son of poor farmers. He began to study painting in the village school but left to travel.

In 1846 he went to Hangzhou where he met Zhou Xian with whom he studied for three years. During the Taiping Rebellion, he and many other painters and scholars made their way to Shanghai, an island of safety protected by the westerners living there. This migration stimulated an already active intellectual society. The paintings became known as the “Shanghai School.” By chance, there were four outstanding painters in Shanghai at the time with the surname Ren, they’re called the “Four Rens.” Ren Xiong was the foremost of the four. He was strongly influenced by Chen Hangshou and painted a wide variety of subjects, including figures, landscapes, flowers, birds, fish and other animals.

The image on the right I photographed from my copy of Zhang Anzhi, A History of Chinese Painting (Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 1992).