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).

Chinese art 3 — modern traditional landscapes

These are representative of traditional concerns; I find them beautiful, if lacking the subtlety of some of the works of centuries past. The first is linked to its source.


“Pines, bamboo and plum blossoms are ‘bosom friends in winter.’ The three plants are upright and show rectitude. They become favorite objects for Chinese painters.”

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Chinese Art 2 — 21st century

With all the focus on China right now, we should note the voices and visions that have been emerging there since the 1980s. “Yue Minjun (Chinese:岳敏君, born 1962, Heilongjiang Province, China) is a contemporary Chinese artist based in Beijing, China. He is best known for oil paintings depicting himself in various settings, frozen in laughter. He has also reproduced this signature image in sculpture, watercolor and prints. While Yue is often classified as part of the Chinese ‘Cynical Realist’ movement in art developed in China since 1989, Yue himself rejects this label, while at the same time “doesn’t concern himself about what people call him.” Wikipedia. Brave souls, some of them.


Execution (1995) — Yue Minjun.

Click the painting to see a commentary from Loud Solitude.