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Four Wangs and Four Monk Painters


The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is the last dynasty of the feudal society ofChina. In the early Qing Dynasty, there were two different schools of the art of painting -- one was the School of Four Wangs (Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, Wang Yuanqi). Wang Shimin, Wang Hui and Wang Yuanqi were natives of Taicang (also known as Loudong) in the south ofChina, and Wang Hui was from Changshu. The four Wangs were teachers and students, all influenced by Dong Qichang. They had great impact on other painters in the painting circle.

The Four Wangs paid little attention to the content of their paintings, but attached great importance to learning from and imitating traditional Chinese painting skills. Though they were skillful in brushstroke techniques and accomplished much artistically, their art works were too detached from life. Among the four, Wang Yuanqi was the youngest but achieved the highest. Wang Yuanqi was appreciated by the emperor, so he had a lot of disciples and formed an independent school,LoudongSchoolnamed after Taicang. Paintings of this school played a dominant role at that time. The design, layout and use of color reached a high level; however, serving the need of the governors, they had little creative ideas, which in compliance with the government of the Qing Dynasty.

There was another school at the same time, the Four Monk painters: Zhu Da, Shi Tao, Kun Can and Hong Ren. The four monk painters tried to change the artistic trend. All the four lived during the Ming-Qing interregnum. They opposed the political ideas of the Qing Dynasty and did not like the life style of the new rulers. They used the traditional Chinese art form to express their ideas and concepts and, in order to escape from reality, developed interesting brushstrokes in which they took an aloof pleasure.

Shi Tao was the most creative painter in the early stage of the Qing Dynasty, with the bold use of colors and ink. Influenced by Xu Wei and Chen Chun, Zhu Da was famous for his paintings of flowers and birds, showing his inner feelings by painting. Shi Tao, though followed the style of Huang Gongwang and Wang Meng, formed his unique style of painting with majestic characteristics. 

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