The full name of this painting is already written on the top right side of the painting, which is “bamboo is the most modest and uncompromising plant. It suffers a lot without changing.” This name suggests that the painting represents personal integrity, modesty, and the strength to pursue one’s goals even when faced with challenges.
Introduction: The Chinese painting tradition
The Chinese painting tradition involves images created by dipping brushes in water, ink and/or water colors on silk or paper. Figures, landscapes, flowers and birds are three important themes for Chinese painting. These subjects reflect artists’ consciousness of natural, philosophical, moral and cultural concerns, and different types of actions, settings and figures carry a number of symbolic meanings.
In Chinese painting iconography, bamboo represents people who are not willing to compromise their values. Its empty stem represents modesty, since these powerful plants are unadorned and simple. Due to these plants’ tendency to grow in shoots, without many branches, they also suggest uniqueness.
There are innumerable styles, schools and categories of Chinese painting, as is perhaps to be expected for such an ancient tradition. This bamboo painting can be included into freehand style under bird and flower painting category, borrowing techniques from Chinese calligraphy. It could be included into Huzhou Bamboo School.
There are two main ways to represent subjects in Chinese painting: the figurative, which closely imitates the subject’s physical appearance, and the impressionistic style, which involves artistic touches and flourishes that make the subject seem more pleasing, or that emphasize some of its different aspects. This painting is typical of the impressionistic style, and its brushstrokes create a calligraphic effect.
This monochrome painting makes great use of negative space around the bamboo, giving it an air of grace and balance. Ink bamboos are classic images in the Chinese painting tradition, and this painting is an exceptionally fine, well-balanced example of the style. The specific tradition surrounding the bamboo image borrows considerably from Chinese calligraphy.