Featured Artist in Collection

Xu Gu (1824–1896)

Walking on Snow in Search of Plum Blossoms(踏雪尋梅)

Very little is known about Xu Gu’s life. He was given the name Zhu Xubai at birth, in Anhui Province. There is no record of him having formal art training, but it is commonly understood that he did study portraiture and was heavily influenced by the paintings of Zeng Jing.

He worked as a travelling portrait artist (though none of his earlier work survives), until he joined the Qing Dynasty army in 1854, where he served for nine years. He ended up fighting in the Taiping rebellion, and it is speculated by historians that this caused his eventual retirement. He publicly left the military to pursue a monastic life, taking the Buddhist name Xu Gu, though in practice he spent the rest of his life living somewhat nomadically and not strictly adhering to the monastic lifestyle.

It was during this period that Xu Gu became well known as a painter, mostly for his landscapes. He was closely associated with the literati movement (a group of artists who, unlike the court painters, did not sell their work but rather used art as an academic practice). Xu Gu never publicly sold his art, opting instead to sell only to close friends and associates, making his paintings relatively uncommon in the art world.