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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Lioness and Cub
    Fan painting - Lioness and Cub by Liu Deliu (1806-1875)

    A lioness walking from right to left, takes up most of the space in the fan. Her cub, facing the opposite direction, looks up at her as the mother's left forepaw rests on his back. Deliu was from Wujiang in Jiangsu province and was known as a specialist in painting plants and animals. He was a student of Xia Zhiding (1782-1827), a painter of similar subjects, but Xia was not well-known enough to have been mentioned in the modern literature. Deliu is said to have been the teacher of Lu Hui (another of the "Nine Friends"), but in this case the student far exceeded the teacher in both technical skill and production. At any rate, Deliu was already 45 when Lu Hui was born, and Lu Hui was just 24 when Deliu died, so the relation could not have been long-lived. Deliu was a "…highly refined individual-whose Red Pear Blossom Studio was known for its bright and sparkling interior, with a fine library and brushes and inkstones of the best quality." Although Brown praises Deliu's work, the relationship between Lu Hui and Deliu may have been more of patronage than teacher-student. He is one of the many artists in the collection that merit further study. A rather droll and amusing lioness, walking from right to left, takes up most of the space in the fan. Her cub, facing the opposite direction, looks up at her as the mother's left forepaw rests protectively on his back. The faces of the lions look more like dogs than lions, and other curious aspects of the anatomy-the long tails with pom-poms at the end and the elongated feet-make one wonder if Deliu had ever seen an actual lion. The statement in the inscription says that he was working in the style of Xinlo Shanren, or Hua Yan (1682-1765), a famous artist of the early Qing who specialized in figures and animals. The somewhat awkward rendering of the animal is mirrored in a painting of a fish in the collection of the Denver Museum of Art. One is tempted to see in the fish the same bemused expression worn by the lioness. The fish seems to float over, not in, the water, as does his companion, a frog.

  • Thumbnail for Fan with calligraphy
    Fan with calligraphy by Zhang Zao, The Lady Lang Fang

    55 lines of tiny regular script, alternating between lines with 16 characters and lines with 6 characters, altogether 610 characters, followed by a line with dedication and signature in even smaller characters. A standard source mentions a woman artist named Zhang Zao, with the pen name Lanfang, who was the wife of a man named Shen. No dates are given for her, and the two possible dates given above within the repeating 60 year cycle are in keeping with the majority of fans in this collection that date from the nineteenth century. An attribution such as this must remain tentative until additional examples of the person's work can be located. Although a number of women artists achieved some level of fame in the Qing dynasty, most were known only through the name of the man they served or to whom they were married. One can only marvel at the extraordinary levels of skill and concentration to which these hundreds of tiny characters attest. One mistake and one had to begin again. At the same time, they are far removed from qualities like freedom and expressiveness, and suggest other skills such as embroidery and weaving for which many women were famous. To be capable of such work, the woman must have had a long period of training in calligraphy, and was most probably very literate, as suggested by the meaning of her name Zao (accomplished in literature). It would be useful to find out more about her.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting -  Boats on a lake beneath a temple - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Boats on a lake beneath a temple - detail of inscription by Xu Guanhai

    Calligraphy found to right of landscape with indistinct background and mist filled shoreline with temple roof emerging from the trees. The artist is known only from an entry in the dictionary, which says that he was from Shangyu in Zhejiang province and known for calligraphy as well as for painting orchids and naturalistic scenes, which usually meant still life or bird and flower themes. He was a provincial graduate in 1760, so the date of 1806 could fit within his later years. There is a certain antique feeling in this work in that the indistinct background and mist filled shoreline with the temple roof emerging from the trees harks back to the Southern Song and the Ma-Xia School. Even the style of the temple architecture imitates that found in these earlier paintings, as does the "one corner" composition with most of the visual weight placed to one side. This is somewhat surprising, since by the early Qing the more orthodox painters did not think much of these earlier masters.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem - detail of the central two figures
    Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem - detail of the central two figures by Sun Zhang

    Two bearded scholars in a boat on a moonlight night. Despite the accomplished technique of this work and presence of a pen name and signature (the character "zhang" is not clear), the artist has not been identified. The style of the painting is very close to that of Qian Hui'an (1833-1911), but the calligraphy in the inscription is different from that artist. Qian's followers were legion, and any number of artists could have produced this charming fan. The face of the bearded scholar at center is particularly close to Huian's work. One can compare this work to those by Shen Zhaohan, another follower of Hui'an. The artist states that he is doing the work in Hucheng, or Shanghai, where Qian Hui'an spent most of his career. The subject of the painting is the "Ode on the Red Cliff" by Su Shi, a topic that appears several times in this collection. It takes as a theme the evanescence of human effort over the broad span of history, and this concept must have resonated with many in these confusing times.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Zhang Baoci (act. third quarter of 19th century)

    Five double lines followed by a conclusion and date, dedication and signature. Each line has twelve characters. Written in a running script on light brown paper. Zhang Baoci, zi Jingtang, was from Changshu in Jiangsu province and was known for his calligraphy. Hopefully examples of his work will turn up in other collections. This particular example exhibits a hesitancy in execution and heaviness in line that is not characteristic of the best calligraphy. This may be due to the model that the writer had studied. One thinks of the late Han calligrapher Zhang Zhi, whose work only exits in such copies. If one studied Zhang Zhi, one had to rely on copies made from copies, many times removed from the original. These were not able to transmit the energy of the brush strokes or even the links between strokes.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Domestic scene
    Fan painting - Domestic scene by Fei Yigeng (d. after 1870)

    Domestic scene of a couple in a small shop or room, with a tree set at the entrance. A good part of the reputation of Fei Yigeng is tied to that of his father Fei Danxu, whose work is also in this collection. He carried on his father's tradition by painting scenes such as this one of family life or of women. In this case Yigeng states that he is painting in the manner of Yang Yin, the well-known Ming dynasty artist whose subject included, but was not at all limited to, women. There is no way of knowing exactly what the painting by Tang Yin was like, but the composition here is quite effective, with the interior scene seen through the tree on the right of the home and the large rock on the left. The man is at work at the long table. He turns to communicate with the woman, who enters from another room, indicated by the curtain drawn back from the door. Her long sleeves suggest she is not of the lowest class, but neither does the room suggest a home of great riches. A vase set on the table holds a flower, the single spot of color in the home, and this gives an aura of aesthetic sensibility to the humble home.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Temple in the Mountains
    Fan painting - Temple in the Mountains by Zhu Chengshou

    The temple nestled in the mountains inside a stone wall suggests a romantic retreat, far removed from the urban life. The buildings and rocks are surrounded by dense low shrubs and there are lumpy peaks of mountains. The identification of this artist is tentative. Zhu Chengshou is recorded, but the only information given is that he was appointed to the court as a gongsheng (senior licentiate) in 1869. While this date is almost in the middle of two possible years on the sixty-year cycle for bingshen, a gongsheng appointment would come only after one had established a reputation, so an earlier date seems most likely. The temple nestled in the mountains inside a stone wall suggests a romantic retreat, far removed from the urban life that any official would have led. The buildings and rocks surrounded by dense low shrubs reminds one of the paintings of Gong Xian, a famous artist from earlier in the dynasty. Then again, the lumpy peaks of the mountains suggest the style of the Five Dynasties artist Zhuran: perhaps both references were intended. A path enters the scene at bottom right, continues past the temple gate, and then crosses a stream before exiting left. This is a very attractive work, with a personal style.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Woman in a garden
    Fan painting - Woman in a garden by Fei Danxu (1801-1850)

    A lady leans on a rock withing a garden enclosure. Fei Danxu was one of the most popular and successful artists in the nineteenth century. He was active in both Hangzhou and Shanghai. Although he painted every possible subject, he is most remembered for his figure paintings, especially those of women. His tradition lived on in the work of his sons, one of whom, Fei Yigeng, is represented in this collection. In this fan, the lady who leans against the rock with her head resting on her hand adopts the "relaxed and unaffected look" for which Danxu was famous. As with so many images of women, the figure is placed in a setting bounded by a fence, suggesting the boundaries and limitations of their lives. Although she can appreciate the garden with its trees, she is confined by her life within the home. Danxu's ladies have a dreamy expression, however, that might suggest that their thoughts are elsewhere, and this may be a part of their attractiveness. The leaves of the trees, painted in two shades of greenish blue, are particularly effective.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape
    Fan painting - Landscape by Cao Zhibo, Ke Jiusi, Zhang Yu and Ni Can

    Landscape with calligraphy by multiple artists. There are two inscriptions on the fan, the one at top is probably by the artist, whose name I cannot read. This inscription is dated to 1852. The colophon at top begins with a litany of the famous landscape artists of the Yuan dynasty: Cao Zhibo, Ke Jiusi, Zhang Yu, and Ni Can. Elements of the design do suggest Cao Zhibo, the first person named. This is, in fact, a rather unusual grouping of Yuan dynasty artists. It is not that these four are unknown, but that they are not usually grouped together. Although the artist is trying, perhaps, to achieve some of the "bland" and "artless" feeling advocated by some of the Yuan artist, it is hard to argue that this fan possesses any outstanding quality. The forms are defined to vaguely and the brushwork is more sloppy than "bland." The inscription at bottom left is by a different person surnamed Li whose seal, Houan, identifies him as Li Gang, active in the late nineteenth century. His inscription is dated dinggai (1887). There is a gap of several decades between the two inscriptions, and the reasons for this may be revealed in the reading of Li's inscription.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem
    Fan painting - The First Red Cliff Prose Poem by Sun Zhang

    Two bearded scholars in a boat on a moonlight night. Despite the accomplished technique of this work and presence of a pen name and signature (the character "zhang" is not clear), the artist has not been identified. The style of the painting is very close to that of Qian Hui'an (1833-1911), but the calligraphy in the inscription is different from that artist. Qian's followers were legion, and any number of artists could have produced this charming fan. The face of the bearded scholar at center is particularly close to Huian's work. One can compare this work to those by Shen Zhaohan, another follower of Hui'an. The artist states that he is doing the work in Hucheng, or Shanghai, where Qian Hui'an spent most of his career. The subject of the painting is the "Ode on the Red Cliff" by Su Shi, a topic that appears several times in this collection. It takes as a theme the evanescence of human effort over the broad span of history, and this concept must have resonated with many in these confusing times.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scholar and servant - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Scholar and servant - detail of inscription by Ren Xun (1835-1893)

    n this painting two figures sit on a point of land that opens onto a vast stretch of water. They are embraced by the two trees, one in the left background and one between and behind the figures. Ren Xun is another major figure in nineteenth century Chinese painting. His importance is underlined by being included in the major exhibition A Century in Crisis, and the following comments are drawn from those pages. A Chinese author notes that "…in terms of facial renditions, the upper portions tend to be narrower and the lower portions fuller…and therefore are antique [in spirit]…" This gives some suggestion of a person who was more reflective and sober in spirit than others. Ren Xun was the brother of Ren Xiong and the teacher of Ren Yi, and he has suffered by comparison to these more famous members of the Ren family. Ren Yi was eventually to go to Shanghai, a world of art more prosperous and iconoclastic than Suzhou where Ren Xun chose to stay. He was a well-known figure in that city, and contributed to the world of art in many ways. His career is well-documented. In this painting the two figures sit on a point of land that opens onto a vast stretch of water, suggested by the indications of distant land at top left. They are embraced by the two trees, one in the left foreground and one between and behind the figures. The scene of the scholar in nature awaiting tea prepared by a servant is often encountered in traditional landscapes, and this scene seems to be a quick sketch, a footnote referring back to that tradition.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape - detail of central figure
    Fan painting - Landscape - detail of central figure by Gu Yun (1835-1896)

    A round fan with a single large pine to the right, partly obscuring a complex buildings. A single figure is placed before a long table seen through the open window of tall structure at left center. A single peak is in the left distance. Gu Yun is one of the best-documented artists in the collection, and information on his career can be found in several publications. There are five fans in this collection signed by the artist, and this provides an interesting opportunity to compare the brush manner and calligraphy of a single individual over time. While there are many precedents in the classical past for these standard elements of trees, houses, and distant mountains, the somewhat aggressive pine tree that dominates the paintings suggests some elements of the Shanghai school. The brushwork is quiet, however, and reminds one of Gu's conservative beginnings.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Ma Xifan

    There are two blocks of calligraphy: on the right are six lines of clerical script with eight characters to a line, seven in the last line. On the left, a longer block in smaller regular script, eight lines with about sixteen characters to the line. Within the last line is the dedication and signature. Ma Xifan is not recorded in the sources I used. The calligraphy on the right appears to be a memorial for an individual, very likely from a Han dynasty source. It is written in a restrained clerical script, emphasizing the horizontal structure of the characters. The rounded ends of the horizontal strokes suggest similar features in the brushwork of Yang Xian (1819-1896), although there is no documentation for this connection. The calligraphy is done with some skill, and the artist must have been a person who took the art of calligraphy seriously.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Woman outside picking duckweed
    Fan painting - Woman outside picking duckweed by Yang Qixia [?]

    Passing a rainy day picking duckweed. The name of this unidentified artist is interpolated from his signature (Yang, the jade field farmer) and the seal (Qixia). This is little better than a guess, and is certainly not definitive. To make things more interesting, there is an artist named Su Changchun, who lived in the mid nineteenth century, who has the pen name of Qixia. Unfortunately there is no indication of the surname Su in the inscription. As usual, the date could be any number in the repeating sixty-year cycle. The painting is of a pleasant domestic scene. A woman in elegant attire sits in a skiff and reaches into the water to touch the plants. To the right is a large rock, from which grows a willow. The willow's branches reach out and drop into the scene at top center, framing the boat and woman. As the title suggests, she is picking duckweed (marsilea quadrifolia), which is used in Chinese medicines as well as a food. The painting is undistinguished in its brushwork, although the composition is interesting.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Ye Yanlan (act. 1861-1908)

    Ten different inscriptions copied from Zhou, Qin and Han bronzes, with transciptions into regular script and short comments. Date and signature are at the end at far left.Ye Yanlan was active in the late nineteenth century in the Tongzhi and Guangxu eras (1861-1908), and this date falls neatly into that time. He was a native of Guangdong province, far in the South of China, and further research will have to determine whether he stayed there or had moved north into the Yangtze region. His entry in a dictionary notes his proficiency in all the standard script types, and this fan suggests that he was also a scholar of early epigraphy. This fan illustrates the antiquarian interest many scholars had in epigraphy, especially as it appeared on bronzes that were cast by the aristocracy of the earliest dynasties. At this time in the nineteenth century, the discoveries of the royal burials of the Shang dynasty at Anyang were half a century away, and although traditional histories had record of this dynasty, it was still part myth in Ye's day. For Confucius, the early kings and aristocracy of the Zhou were paragons of filial piety, and deciphering their words as they appeared on their ritual implements carried the same import as that of western scholars who investigate the Dead Sea scrolls and other early fragments of scripture. The inscriptions cover some thousand years, and some, according to Ye, are as late as the Han. In Chinese terms, this calligraphy would be in the category of "Bronze and Stone Writing" (Jinshi wen), as opposed to one of the four major script types seen on most of the fans with calligraphy. Such studies had a long history, going back into the Song dynasty, and this fan is evidence for the continuation of these traditions into the late Qing. Since Ye provides both the antique bronze form and its equivalent in regular script, students could note these comparisons and do research on similar forms in other bronzes.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Wu Xizai (1799-1870)

    Seventeen uneven lines of a regular script, alternating between lines of about nine characters with those of about four or five characters, the last with title, stylistic acknowledgement, and signature. A chapter of the Huangting neijing after Meishan dongpo zhushi Su Shi Zizhan. This writing is, as Xizai says, very much in the style of the famous Song dynasty cultural hero, Su Shi or Su Dongpo (1036-1101). Su's life story and accomplishments in literature, politics, painting and calligraphy are recorded in any book on China. The calligraphy here is recognizably in his style, and this adds an interesting footnote to the sources for Xizai's style, showing that he had a broad knowledge of past styles. His career and art would make an interesting study for a student.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Wan Jixun

    88 lines in a pattern of two long and two short lines of tiny regular script. Dedication, date and signature in last two lines. No further information on this writer was found. As stated elsewhere, the ability to write in such small, almost microscopic, characters is as much a testament to the writer's eyesight, patience, and technical skill as to his artistry. Further work on the subject of the fan is in order.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Gong Bo

    Thirteen double lines in running script on slightly darkened paper, followed by date, dedication and signature. The name of the writer has not been found in a standard source, but the clearly written characters and standard formula for the signature leaves no doubt as to the name. The writing is by an accomplished hand, in a standard style. The writing begins, "Officials of the Han dynasty said…" The content could then refer back to that same era when so many of the great models of calligraphy were created.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Dashou (1791-1858)

    14 lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven or eight characters and lines of five characters. The fourteenth line has the dedication. After this is the signature. Dashou was a well-known monk famous for his calligraphy, painting and seal carving. He was called the Jinshi monk, or the "monk of [calligraphy written on] bronze and stone," a reference that certainly praised his erudition in the study of ancient characters found in these media. A friend wrote of him, "Shang vessels, Zhou tripods, Han seals, Tang stelae: over the sweep of 3000 years milord has acquired their breadth and measure from a responsive Heaven." His early history is unknown, but he must have begun his studies at an early age and have come from an environment that treasured such erudition. The short passage begins with the date "jianzhong, qingguo, yuannian, shiyue" or "the tenth month of the first year of the jianzhong qiingguo era" which would be the year 1101. This is the date Su Shi (1037-1101) the great poet, calligrapher, and statesman, died. This, and the fact that Su Shi's pen name, Dongpo, occurs in the seventh line of the passage, strongly suggests that Dashou is writing out a passage from Su's essays, which have always been treasured for their literary style. Just as important is the beauty of Su's calligraphy, which has been used as a model by generations of Chinese as Dashou does here. Any scholar more versed in literature than I could certainly identify the specific source for this. The characters are beautifully written in a regular script characteristic of Su Shi. Each character is contained within itself, with a careful balance of vertical and horizontal elements. Over the surface, no single character stands out, nor do any seem less important no matter the simplicity of their form. This work should be of interest to anyone who is studying the sources for Dashou's style.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Woman and scholar with a pipa
    Fan painting - Woman and scholar with a pipa by Shen Zhaohan (1856-1941)

    Playing the pipa amid the red leaves of autumn. . This fan is a particularly nice figure painting, which like his other fan in this collection, follows the approach to figure painting, especially in the faces, developed in the Shanghai area by Qian Hui'an and his followers. Despite this, Zhaohan makes allusion to an earlier Sing painter famous for his figures when he makes reference to Xinlo shanren (Hua Yan) in his inscription.

  • Thumbnail for fan painting - Cherry blossoms with calligraphy
    fan painting - Cherry blossoms with calligraphy by Jin Lan (1841-1911)

    Prunus branches arching over inscription. Jin Lan was from Suzhou and is listed as one of the "Nine Friends" of that city. Although defined as a self-taught artist, he was certainly aware of the orthodox tradition of the Qing Dynasty. He modeled himself on such earlier masters and collaborated with contemporaries such as Gu Yun who worked in that tradition. He painted a wide range of subjects, but the prunus blossom was his speciality, and this fine example can be compared with others in the collection, notably that by Tang Yifen and Yi Nianzeng.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script by Yu, the younger [?]

    Eleven uneven lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven to eight characters and lines of three characters. After this is a block of smaller characters, seven lines with varying number of characters each. The fourth (raised) contains the dedication and the last line the date and signature. Detail of signature. The writer has not been identified. The character di, which I have translated as "younger person," can have several meanings, all indicating a person of lower status. In a strict sense it can mean "younger brother," but it could also mean "follower" "religious follower," or just "person of lower status." The style of the script is close to that of the Song artist Su Shi, mentioned frequently in these fans. A careful translation of the fan may reveal some clues to support or refute this assumption.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Lady Reclining on a bench in a garden
    Fan painting - Lady Reclining on a bench in a garden by Xiaoyu, or the Lady Feng [?]

    Paintings of both men and women in gardens. A part of the iconography of the most images of women in the gardens is the wall, signifying that she was in a space enclosed. The identification of this woman is uncertain. Xiaoyu is taken from a seal, and the second character of the name (after Feng) is unclear, although even if it were readable there seems to be no likely woman artist with a first character Feng in her name in the dictionary. She does say that she did the work in Shanghai, and since women traveled little, this is likely where she lived. There are many paintings of both men and women in gardens. It is interesting that a part of the iconography of most images of women in gardens is the wall, signifying that she was in a space enclosed, a space that belonged to someone else, and by extension she was property within that space. Perhaps only in dreams could one escape. This work is competent, but not too impressive in either its brushwork or composition.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape - detail of seal
    Fan painting - Landscape - detail of seal by Datong

    A dense landscape with a stream on the right and the houses to the rear. On the left, two large pines overhang a pavilion in which a scholar sits, presumably writing a letter. The name of this artist does not appear in standard sources. Like the previous fan, this is a very competent, even ambitious, work. As the title suggests, the scholar in the hut is "composing a scented letter among streams and mountains." On the left, two large pines overhang a pavilion in which a scholar sits, presumably writing a letter. The dense landscape with a stream on the right and houses to the rear suggests a precedent in the Yuan dynasty masters Wang Meng or Huang Gongwang, although there is no specific clue in the inscription. This is a very good artist, and in time he will be identified. The name of this artist does not appear in standard sources. This is a very competent, even ambitious, work. As the title suggests, the scholar in the hut is "composing a scented letter among streams and mountains." On the left, two large pines overhang a pavilion in which a scholar sits, presumably writing a letter. The dense landscape with a stream on the right and houses to the rear suggests a precedent in the Yuan dynasty masters Wang Meng or Huang Gongwang, although there is no specific clue in the inscription. This is a very good artist, and in time he will be identified.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Landscape
    Fan painting - Landscape by Datong

    A dense landscape with a stream on the right and the houses to the rear. On the left, two large pines overhang a pavilion in which a scholar sits, presumably writing a letter. The name of this artist does not appear in standard sources. This is a very competent, even ambitious, work. As the title suggests, the scholar in the hut is "composing a scented letter among streams and mountains." On the left, two large pines overhang a pavilion in which a scholar sits, presumably writing a letter. The dense landscape with a stream on the right and houses to the rear suggests a precedent in the Yuan dynasty masters Wang Meng or Huang Gongwang, although there is no specific clue in the inscription. This is a very good artist, and in time he will be identified.