Grapes and Poem by Li Qi in seal script

Artist: Qi Baishi 齊白石 (1864-1957)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1945
Two album leaves; ink and color on paper and ink on paper
H x W (image, each): 31.8 x 31.8 cm (12 1/2 x 12 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf

China, grape, Modern period (1912 - present), poems, Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, seal script

To 1997
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York City, to 1997

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1997 [1]


[1] The total gift from the Ellsworth collection consists of nearly three-hundred objects (F1997.42-.85 and F1998.83-294). All Chinese calligraphy in the proposed gift were published in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950 vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (see Curatorial Note 4, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


Governing with your mind at ease, others are naturally easy,
The flying birds one sees at dawn, at dusk come flying back.
I send this missive to the prescient magistrate upon the river,
I am awed by your Mount Guye that looms above the city wall.

Renowned as one of the most influential and widely emulated painters of the twentieth century, Qi Baishi was born on January 1, 1864 to a peasant family in Xiangtan, Hunan Province. He started learning carpentry from his uncle in 1877 and then proceeded to wood carving, and in 1889 his formal study of literature and painting commenced. He also became deeply enamored of seal carving, which he practiced assiduously over the years. Qi Baishi moved to Beijing in 1919, where he taught, wrote, and published until the beginning of the War of Resistance against Japan in 1937, when he refused to see official visitors or sell his art for the duration of the war. After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Qi Baishi was one of the most highly honored artists in China, widely exhibiting and publishing his works until his death.

As a calligrapher, Qi Baishi is admired for his works in running script and seal script, as seen on this album leaf. Particularly influenced by his study of early seals and stone inscriptions from the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.), Qi appropriated their strong squarish structures, with various elements of their internal composition slightly askew, and carefully attended to both the use of ink, subtlely modulating its wetness and heaviness, and the alternating thickness and thinness of his brushstrokes. As in this album leaf, he often combined a postscript written in quick, fluid running script with the main text of larger characters written in seal script, thereby creating a dynamic visual tension between the two forms and techniques. The main text is a quatrain by the Tang dynasty poet Li Qi (active early-to-mid 8th century), who composed it for a friend serving as the magistrate of a county near Mount Guye in Shanxi Province.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 339, 214.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 14, pp. 106-109, 135.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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