Featured Artist in Collection

Qi Baishi (1864-1957)

Resplendent Red amid Remaining Lotus Leaves

Qi Baishi started receiving artistic training in Gongbi, which consists of fundamentals in fine brushwork and meticulous detail. Despite his training in Gongbi, Qi is famous for painting in the freely expressive Xieyi (‘sketching thoughts’) style.

Qi was popular for his variety of works ranging from plant to animal life and esteemed for his natural style. Qi managed to master many different techniques including calligraphy and seal-carving. After establishing himself in Hunan as a painter and artist, it wasn’t until his forties that he began traveling and looking for more inspiration.

After all of his travels, Qi built a house and settled down. He began reading and writing poetry and painting some of the mountains he saw while traveling. These paintings became a series of fifty landscape pictures known as “Chieh-shan t’u-chuan.” Later, poems and postscripts by artists that Qi knew were printed onto the paintings (Boorman & Howard p. 302-304). One of Qi’s earlier series of works called “The Carp” was recognized and praised for its simple style – it contained no excess of decorations or writings. His noticeable talent with wood-carving was also highly praised, as was his ability to express his personal influence through his work. It wasn’t until his mid-fifties that Qi was considered a mature painter. By then, his lines were sharper and his subject matter had changed from wildlife to botany. As said by Wang Chao-Wen, “he based his work on reality while experimenting ceaselessly in new ways of expression, to integrate truth and beauty, create something yet unimagined by other artists, and achieve his own unique style, on that should not be artificial.”

What is unique about Qi is that his works show no western influences, unlike most other artists at this time. Other artists praised Qi for the “freshness and spontaneity that he brought to the familiar genres of birds and flowers, insects and grasses, hermit-scholars and landscapes.”  Although Qi wasn’t the first artist to focus on small things in nature, he was highly recognized for his thoughtful and lyrical approach in depicting these subjects.

The market for Qi’s paintings has made headlines in the art market, both for China and the world. In 2016, his works held the second position by value (third by the number of lots to sale) by auction. At the end of 2017, the art world was rocked by the news that his Twelve Landscape Screens (山水十二條屏) (1925) catapulted him into the ‘$100 Million Club’ by selling for $140.8 million (931.5 million yuan) at the Beijing Poly International Auction Co, China.