Qi Baishi (1863-1957)
Qi Baishi was a versatile artist. Although he could paint excellent human figures, animals, and landscapes, he was mainly known for his flowers, birds, insects and fish, which were his major themes in later life. He particularly enjoyed painting rural scenes. Qi Baishi brushwork is exceptionally fluent and his position of red and black creates a strong feeling of autumnal richness and response.
Qi Baishi"s works have a fresh lyrical quality and sought to achieve a 芒鈧搇ikeness both in shape and spirit" of the things he portrayed. He was able to suggest the essence of a subject with a few brief strokes. One can perceive in his art a high sense of reality. Everything he painted is bubbling with life, joy, optimism and often humor, this reflected his own view of the world.
Qi Bai-shi also known as Qi Huang or Qi Weiqing , was born in 1863 in Xiangtan County, Hunan Province. He was a woodcarver in his early youth, and taught himself painting, poetry, calligraphy and zhuan seal carving in his spare time.
In the seven years beginning from 1902, he left home five times to wander around many famous mountains, lakes and rivers throughout the country and painted numerous landscapes. In 1910, when he finally came home, he created "Jieshan View" and 51 other landscape paintings.
Since 1918 he resided in Beijing and lived by his painting and calligraphy. Most of the subjects he painted were flowers, birds, insects and fish. In 1928 he began to sign his name on the paintings as Bai-shi means literally "White Stone," which implies "Snow Mountains". He said, at one time, "I learned finger-painting in my youth; landscape painting after 30; and specialized in flowers, insects and birds after 40." After that, he resolved to paint "all the insects and birds in the whole world." During his lifetime he had painted countless number of flowers and birds. He changed his painting styles several times before settling down finally to create his own unique style.
In 1952 he was appointed Honorary Professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. In 1953 the Ministry of Culture of the People"s Republic of China conferred on him the honorable title of "People"s Artist." He was elected President of the Chinese Artists" Association at the Second National Congress of Writers and Artists. In 1954 he was a deputy of the First National People"s Congress. In 1955 he was awarded the World Peace Prize by the World Peace Council.
Qi Bai-shi died in Beijing on September 16, 1957 at the venerable age of ninety-six.
Qi Bai-shi is also known as Ch"i Pai-shih in the western literature.
Quotes from an essay by Alice Boney:
He was born into a poor peasant family in the year 1861 in Hsiangtan, (Xiangtan ) Hunan, China. His was a family of poor farmers who worked hard on their land. Ch"i (Qi 茅陆?, however, was a delicate child, and as he was unable to endure the strength-taxing labor in the fields, when he was eight years old his family apprenticed him to a carpenter. After a ten-year term he decided to try fine carving and cabinet making. He became a master carver and until his death was a renowned seal cutter. In his search for designs he became interested in painting and so discovered "The Mustard Seed Garden" .This is a comprehensive series of flower, tree, rock and other motifs compiled and printed for student artists. He fell completely in love with this and copied and recopied the entire series. This was his introduction to Chinese painting, and thus he spent long years practicing the meticulous and painstaking kung pi style and assimilating the traditional. He managed to visit all the celebrated scenic spots of China and so widened his scope and vision. When he became the pupil of the literary scholar, Wang Kai-yin, he came under the spell of the famous monk painters Pa Ta Shan-jen and Shih-tao of the late Ming and early Ch"ing periods. Thus at the age of forty he chose as his own the style called hsieh yi (, or the swift, sure, spontaneous, emotional brush stroke usually perfected only by the exalted calligrapher scholar. To Pa Ta Shan-jen"s strong, forceful brush he has added ever more force - plus a striking individuality that stamps him as one of the great painters of China and indeed of the world. Ch"i painted continually but did not gain recognition until he was sixty. His best work was done between his seventieth and eightieth years.
Qi Baishi died in Beijing on September 16, 1957.