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.
The subject of this painting is a blooming chrysanthemum flower. Within the context of the Chinese painting tradition, this particular imagery represents resilience and strength under duress: these flowers stay in bloom even during autumn, making them a great symbol of vitality and triumph over adversity.
There are innumerable styles, schools and categories of Chinese painting, as is perhaps to be expected for such an ancient tradition. This chrysanthemum painting can be included into freehand style under bird and flower painting. These works showcase expert ink-and-wash techniques and beautiful nature scenes. It is very similar in style to Xu Xi (937-975), who is one of the great Chinese painting masters. Therefore, this painting can be included in Xu 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, with its wild splashes of colour and the exaggerated size of the blooms.
There are only four colors in this painting, white, yellow, rosy red and black. Leaving the left part of the painting blank is a signature technique in Chinese painting. By using only tones for most of the painting, including the flowers’ stems, the artist brings out the flower’s yellow and rosy red colours and makes them the focus of the painting: they look alive and beautiful.
The full name of this painting is already written on the top right side of the painting, which is “blooming chrysanthemums make autumn a more beautiful season.” Much like artists themselves, chrysanthemums bring joy and beauty in times of hardship: even as daylight becomes scarce, they provide their own uplifting beauty.