Elisabeth Philips-Slavkoff

Chinese Traditional Painting - Glossary

Gongbi technique uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely. The Gongbi style had its beginnings approximately 2000 years ago and peaked out in Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties (7th to 14th centuries) when these refined paintings were endorsed and collected by the royal families of China. This style of art was accomplished mainly by professional artists who to perfect this style must totally commit themselves to Gongbi techniques.

Xie Yi style, or freehand style is the style of Literati painters who painted as a means of self-expression, much the same way they wrote poetry. It is a mode through which the Confucian junzi (noble person) expressed his ethical personality. Many literati painted either on the side, while playing the role of scholar-officials, or who, through wealth, could afford to devote themselves fully to the art of painting. Brushstrokes were seen as expressions of the spirit more than were matters of composition or skill .
Today literati painting is the dominant form of traditional painting in China.

Mo Gu painting is a special form of Gongbi painting . While traditional Gongbi technique outlines with very fine inkstrokes, Mo Gu ( boneless) technique paints without outline but rather with forms achieved by washes of ink and colour . This technique, mainly used in flower painting, became popular under the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the most outstanding artist being Yun
Shouping  also known as Nantian  (1633 – 1690).

Qian Xuan (1235-1305), was a scholar official under the Song . After 1276, when the Mongol Yuan Dynasty took over China , he devoted his life to painting, and became noted as a "fur and feathers" painter. He was also adept at landscape painting and is known for landscapes that according to Chinese art critics hinted at a longing for a return of native Chinese rule.  He mixed Song realism with an archaic Tang style and appeals to the Western eye by a high degree of abstraction.

Chen Chun (1483-1544) is the offspring of  a wealthy family of scholar-officials during the Ming dynasty. He became famous for a free-style method of "ink and wash" paintings and was associated with the Wu school of literary painting. He did both Landscape and bird and flower paintings.

Gu Kun Bo  (1905-1970), was a landscape painter and art educator and as of 1957 Professor at the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou. His painting is influenced by Tang, Song and Yuan style and he paints both in the Gongbi and the Xie Yi technique.  Some of his best paintings date from the early 50ies, when he was about 45 years old. In 1964 he suffered a stroke from which
he never recovered.

Lin Fengmian (1900- 1991) is considered a pioneer of modern Chinese painting by blending Chinese and Western painting styles. He was also an important innovator in the area of Chinese art education and first principal of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. Lin spent the early years of his career in Europe, moving to France in 1920 to study painting. He was married to an Austrian Elsa von Roda.