The Eight Eccentric Painters of
Yangzhou, with Zheng Banqiao as its representative, refers to the painters in
the region of Yangzhou in the
reigns of Kangxi and Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Their paintings
have strong personal character, breaking away from the restrains of that time.
The style of their paintings has influenced a lot of great painters of later
generations, such as Zhao Zhiqian, Qi Baishi and Wu Changshuo. The eight
painters were not only masters of poem, calligraphy and painting, but also good
at seal cutting.
Rooted in the background of that time, the
eight painters were Jin Nong, Huang Shen, Zheng Xie (Zheng Banqiao), Li Shan, Li
Fangying, Wang Shishen, Gao Xiang and Luo Pin. Their paintings did not follow
the old brushstroke conventions, making them look strange compared with other
paintings of the time. In addition, these painters were proud and uncontrolled
and had bold personalities; thus they were named the Eight Eccentric Painters.
Their paintings were not fully understood by many people at that time and were
considered eccentric. But they opened a new era in Chinese painting history and
created new flower-and-bird painting methods.
Jin Nong (1687-1764), a native of
Hangzhou, was the most famous of
the eight eccentrics. He was talented in many fields and started to paint in his
50s. Living a poor life, he could draw figures, flowers and birds, landscapes,
but was best at picturing plum blossoms. His paintings were carefully designed
with simple shapes, and his best-known paintings are Ink Plum Blossom and
Moon and Flowers. He also created a unique calligraphic style, which he
called lacquer calligraphy.
Huang Shen (1687-1768)
was a native of Ninghua, Fujian Province.
His family was poor when he was young, and he studied Huai Su's calligraphic
style. His paintings also show the Cursive script style in his rough sketches.
He was best at figure painting. He preferred to draw religious figures or lower
class people, and his representative works include The Drunk Monk and
Shepherd Su Wu.
Li Shan (1686-1762) was a native of
Xinghua, Jiangsu Province. He was interested in
painting in his childhood and made a name for himself in painting circles at the
age of only 16. He served as a county magistrate in Teng County of Shandong
Province. His painting style was influenced by Xu Wei and Shi Tao, and he used
light colors and adopted ink-splashing skills to capture an unrestricted
quality. His well-known paintings are Autumn Sunflower and Pine,
Orchid and Stone, etc.
Li Fangying (1695-1755), a native of
Nantong, Jiangsu Province, spent 20 years as a county
magistrate. He was on good terms with Jin Nong and Zheng Xie, and was
accomplished at painting pines, bamboos, plum blossoms and orchids. In his later
years, he concentrated on painting plum blossoms. His best-known works are
Swimming Fish and Waving Bamboo in the Wind.
Gao Xiang (1688-1753), a native of
Yangzhou, lived a poor life but
was very conceited. He admired Shi Tao very much and was good at painting
landscapes, birds and flowers, especially plum blossoms.
Wang Shishen (1685-1759) was a native of
Xiuning, Anhui Province. He lived in a poor family
when he was young and then made a living in Yangzhou by selling paintings. He lived
happily in spite of his poverty and carried out painting research. He was good
at drawing plum blossoms too, and his best-known painting is The Ink
Blossom. He and Jin Nong, Gao Xiang and Luo Pin are
known as the four great plum painters of the time.
Luo Pin (1733-1799), a native of
Shexian County, Anhui Province, was a student of Jin Nong. He
was the youngest among the Eight Eccentrics, but had rich knowledge and a unique
painting style. He refused to serve the Qing government, and led a poor life by
selling his paintings. He is known for his paintings Ghost and
Alcoholic Zhong Kui.
Zheng Xie, commonly known as Zheng
Banqiao, was a native of Xinghua,
Jiangsu Province. He was the most successful candidate in the
highest imperial examination and had served as a county magistrate in
Shandong Province. He offended the
higher officials by opening a shelter to help the poor, and had to resign. He
then lived in Yangzhou, selling his paintings to earn a living. He was
active and creative, and accomplished a great deal in poetry, calligraphy and
painting. He was good at drawing bamboo, orchids and stones, and created a new
calligraphy style by combining the regular, Cursive, official and seal scripts.
Most of the flower and bird paintings of the
Eight Eccentric Painters were drawn in free sketches, and their paintings were
unconventional, reflecting strong subjective moods. Their creative thinking is
the valuable cultural heritage for us to study and hand