Emperor Painter: Zhao Ji
The Imperial Painting Academy with the most integral organization thrived in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Both the systems of subjects and examination of art education were quite mature. Along with the development of economy, art education gained great achievements and became the example of painting academy in Chinese history. Following their masters, Huang Quan, Huang Jucai, Zhao Yuanchang and Gao Wen from the Western Shu and Wang Qihan, Zhou Wenju, Li Zhaoqing, Gu Deqian from the Southern Tang had become the core members of the painting academy of the Northern Song Dynsaty (960-1127). Painting styles from the Western Shuaffected that of the painting academy in the Northern Song Dynasty. Besides, Painters from the Central Plains and other regions were invited to the palace. The imperial painting academy reached its peak of development in the period from Zhao Ji"s reign.
After succeed to the throne, Zhao Ji (1082-1135) was fatuous and incompetent.However, he was well known as an excellent painter and calligrapher and his stress on painting academy made important contribution to Chinese painting. The entry examination for the painting academy was included in the imperial civil service examination system in 1004. The painting examination contained six subjects, including Buddhist painting, figure painting, landscape painting, bird-and-beast painting, flower-and-bamboo painting, house-and-tree painting and even drawing pictures based on ancient poems. Ranks were determined by their grades. Painters of different subjects lived in different places and were trained respectively and often checked. Painters" status was promoted prominently and they gained comparably high salary. Stimulated by attractive salary and the emperor"s care, creation of painting academy flourished. Artistic collections also became abundant. Xuanhe Shupu and Xuanhe Huapu compiled under Zhao Ji"s instruction collected calligraphic works and paintings in the palace. They are important materials for research on history of ancient painting. The style of Zhao Ji was inclined to bold and unrestrained rather than meticulous, thus some works with his signature might have been drawn by his imperial painters. Only the Four Fowls inThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art inAmericaand the Willow and Crow collected byShanghai Museum was confirmed to be his works. Both are ink and wash with simple strokes.
Along with the downfall of the Northern Song Dynasty, the prosperous Xuanhe Painting Academy was finished. After round about trip some painters of the academy escaped to Lin"an, the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and became core members of the painting academy in the Southern Song Dynasty. Their positions in the academy were resumed gradually.