Artist: Qi Baishi 齊白石 (1864-1957)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1939
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 101.3 × 34 cm (39 7/8 × 13 3/8 in)
China, Hunan province, Xiangtan
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, lotus, Modern period (1912 - present)
Provenance research underway.

Qi Baishi helped to transform traditional Chinese painting into a contemporary idiom by combining features borrowed from both folk art and the elite tradition of scholar-amateur, or literati, painting. He was born into a humble farming family and worked as a carpenter before becoming a painter. Qi was first recognized for his portraits, but ultimately became famous for landscapes and especially for close-up studies of flowers, insects, shrimp, and small animals.

By the time Qi reached his thirties, he was able to lease a house in Hunan Province with land to cultivate a lotus pond. Despite the rather bold, cursory style of this painting, its sensitive and realistic details reveal Qi's firsthand observation of lotus plants, one of his favorite subjects. Dark, mature seed pods and leaves that are beginning to fade and turn brown foretell the imminent arrival of autumn, but in cheerful contrast to this somber palette, a late summer blossom bends toward the water.

Qi Baishi dedicated this scroll to an unknown Mr. Jianfei. It is dated to 1939, two years after the beginning of the Japanese occupation of China. Since Qi's works were equally popular in Japan and China, he was able to continue earning his living by painting during the war. Qi had a long and prolific career, influencing generations of students, including Chang Dai-chien (1894-1983), whose work is exhibited on the other side of this doorway.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. p. 109.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 210, p. 314.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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