28 May 2010
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Mynah and Tricolour Amaranth
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
133 x 32.5 cm. (52 3/8 x 12¾ in.)
Inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated dingmao year (1927)
Although the painting is simple in composition, with a crested mynah perched on a huge rock, the vulnerability of the bird is the result of careful arrangement of ideas and skilled use of the brush and stands out from the works he created in the same year. The amaranth plant is one that Qi painted often, as it grows year round and has the colours red, green and yellow, three colours present only during the beginning of autumn. With long stalks, few branches and single leaves, the colours of the leaves signify the migration of birds for the winter. Qi first depicted the general shape of the plants then drew in the complex system of veins, skillfully depicting autumn in its prime.
Qi once said 'Flowers must have insects as accompaniment to be more life-like'. Hence, it is not surprising that Qi added a crested mynah to add flavour to the composition. Qi's free and heavy use of ink gives the rock a sturdy and solid appearance, reflecting his training as a carpenter and calligrapher. Qi also stressed that the key to giving life to birds was in painting their eyes and focusing their gaze, while its claws and mouth must be painted to express its energy and vigour. In terms of shape and posture, the feathers and colour choice were also important. The mynah's thick round body, coupled with a strong gaze and pointed mouth, looks lively and animated.
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Modern Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art and the Art Gallery, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1987, p. 42, pl. 15.
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