Chen-Hongshou

Tao Yuanming by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652)

The chrysanthemums refer to a couplet in the fifth of Tao’s “Twenty Poems on Drinking Wine”:

採菊東籬下,
悠然見南山;

Plucking chrysanthemums below the eastern hedge

Distantly I see the southern hills.

The painting may belong to the Chen’s “Scenes from the Life of Tao Yuanming”. Cf. James Cahill The Distant Mountains: Chinese Painting of the Late Ming Dynasty, 1570 - 1644.

Chen Hongshou

Chen Hongshou (1599-1652) excelled in painting and calligraphy. He became a Buddhist monk in 1646 but was torn between the conflicting ideals of Confucian government service and Buddhist retirement. His paintings suggest something of those tensions in dealing with ancient subjects and figure styles; indeed, Chen gave a brief but vigorous new life and dignity to the art of figure painting that had been in limbo since the Song dynasty (960–1279). Chen Hongshou specialized in figures, but he was also gifted at other subjects, including birds-and-flowers, grasses-and-insects, and landscapes. In figure painting, he sought the quality of his figure subjects rather than their absolute likeness. Chen Hongshou often used solid forms and curvilinear drapery lines, revealing the features of Li Gonglin’s and Zhao Mengfu’s styles. However, his manner was often exaggerated, and he became known as one of the “transformation” artists of the late Ming. He also did illustrations for woodblock printing, making a major contribution to the art of woodblock illustration in the late Ming.