Friday, September 25, 2009

likeness and unlikeness

Qi Baishi (Ch'i Pai Shih) is one of the greatest Chinese painters. Chinese tradition places essences, character, and spirit above the simple faithfulness to appearances. Qi Baishi's paintings well represent the Chinese tradition, but in an innovative form and style. Though the art of Qi Baishi was originated from nature, which one can learn from his paintings of animals, insects, and flowers, he painted them in a way nobody else had achieved before. He once said, "The excellence of a painting lies in its being alike, yet unlike. Too much likeness flatters the vulgar taste; too much unlikeness deceives the world." Qi Baishi had developed his style over his life-long learning, studying, and innovation. His paintings were not matured until his late life.

He was born in Xiangtan, Hunan Province, on Jan. 1, 1864. His birthday was in 1863 based on the Chinese lunar calendar. His family was poor like most Chinese families and they lived on the cultivation of rice on a small piece of land. At seven, he learned about 300 Chinese characters his grandfather was able to teach. He only had one year formal education when he was eight years old. The tuition for the one year was paid using his mother's saving.

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