Far-Eastern Painting – Birds and Flower Painting – A Scholar-Artist St…

Birds and Flower Painting – The Concept

Birds and flowers have been the favorite subjects of Chinese Paintings since ancient times. Birds and Flower Painting includes a wide range of natural topics, such as flowers, trees, vegetables, birds, insects, fish, and animals. Existing as an independent art form since Tang Dynasty (618-907), Birds and Flower Painting has evolved from being an ornamental pattern on daily utensils to a mature and an important genre of traditional and current Chinese Art.

The History

During the Pre-Tang period, different patterns of birds and flowers were used on pottery, bronze vessels, and Phoenix Paintings on silk. In the mid and late Tang periods, birds and flowers were used to symbolize the mood of the human figures in paintings. The objects were presented as metaphoric elements, for example, bamboo personified sage, plum personified a dignified person, lotus was associated with pure heart, orchid represented a beautiful person, peony was a symbol of wealth and good fortune, etc.

In the Five Dynasties Period (907-960), Birds and Flower Painting became a current of scenery & Figure Painting, reaching maturity by the end of Song Dynasty (960-1279). A major approach in this period was to focus on small details, with careful brush techniques, to capture a comprehensive view of the subject. Another approach was more distant than the real objects in character to sketch painter’s mind as an Expressionist. By Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Ink and Wash Painting attained popularity, with plum, orchid, bamboo, and stone as major art themes. However, in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), artists used thick brush strokes to decorate birds and flowers with calligraphy in paintings to further explain the theme of their artworks. Poem, handwriting, and painting were brought together on a canvas to create a complete view of artist’s emotions during this period.

During Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), painters found ways to express themselves more directly by free brushwork, giving birth to a freehand style of Birds and Flower art form.

Artist and Artworks

o ‘Sketch of scarce Bird Scroll’ by Huang Quan (903-965)

o ‘Snow Covers Bamboo’ by Xu Xi

o ‘Lotus and Golden Pheasant’, ‘Pigeon on a Peach Branch’ & ‘Winter Sunset and Wild Bird’ by Emperor Song Huizong (1082-1135)

o ‘Flower, Bamboo and Sparrow’, ‘Ink Peony’, ‘Flower-and-Bird’ by Wang Yuan (1271-1368)

o ‘Two Magpies and a Hare’ by Cui Bai (1050-1080)

o ‘Fish Swimming amid Falling Flowers’ by Liu Cai (1068-1085)

o ‘Early Spring’ by Guo Xi’s (1020-1098)

o ‘Early Autumn’ by Xian Quan (1235-1305)

o ‘Birds in Bushes’ by Lin Liang (1416-1480)

o ‘Grapes’, ‘Chrysanthemums and Bamboos’ by Xu Wei (1521-1593)

o ‘Morning Glory and Calabash’, ‘Plum Blossoms’ by Qi Baishi (1864-1957)

o ‘Lotus’ by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)


Modern Chinese Paintings continue to have Birds and Flower as an independent art theme. While one set of artists are more traditional in their work, others have amalgamated the ancient Chinese Art with reformist Western techniques for a current Art style.

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