LI SHAN 1686-1762 | FLOWERS, FRUITS, FISH AND VEGETABLES
LI SHAN 1686-1762
FLOWERS, FRUITS, FISH AND VEGETABLES, ink and color on silk, handscroll
花果爭妍 設色絹本 手卷
signed Futang Ao daoren Li Shan, dated seventh year of the Qianlong reign (1742), fourth month, and with two seals of the artist, li shan, and zong yang, and fifteen collectors’ seals, including six of Gu Xiaokun, gu xiao kun zhen cang yin, gu, xiao kun, long bo ge cang, gu shi, xiao kun zhi yin, and nine others, tang wang song li ming tang, san tang ju, jin shi min qiu zhai suo cang shu hua, tian shang tang, gu gong, jin, tian he yan zai, cun jing yu shang,and gu zhao xi yin.
Titleslip by Lu Hui (1851-1920), signed Lu Hui tiqian, and with one seal of the artist.
Attached frontispiece on paper by Cheng Shifa (1921-2007), dated yichou, 1985, spring, signed Cheng Shifa ti, and with two seals of the artist, shi fa, and cheng tong.
Attached colophon on paper by Cheng Shifa, signed Cheng Shifa tiyu Longboge dengxia, dated yi chou, 1985, first month, eighth day, and with two seals of the artist, shi fa, and cheng tong, and two collector’s seals, xiao kun, and long bo ge.
Wood box (3)
Height 17 in., 43.2 cm; Width 136 in., 345.4 cm
Silk bears tanned tone with areas of staining. Tears to the scroll mounting with old repairs and new repairs by scotch tape. Mildews throughout especially along the top and bottom edges. Fabric tears and creases throughout.
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Collection of Cheng Shifa (1921-2007).
Private Collection, acquired directly from the above, and thence by descent.
Li Shan is best known as one of an important group of painters who in later times came to be known as the 'Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou' due to their expressive and bold style of painting. He was born in Xinghua, Jiangsu Province to a prominent scholar-official family. From an early age Li studied poetry, calligraphy, and painting from a number of different masters and he achieved early success, passing the second level examinations at the age of twenty-five. He gained entry into the Imperial Study where he had the great fortune to be tutored in painting by the well known scholar-official Jiang Tingxi (1669-1732). Jiang was known for his paintings of birds and flowers, which he produced in two distinct styles—one a more calligraphic, sketchy mode of ink on paper, and the other a finely drawn, meticulously colored manner, generally on silk. Li Shan presumably learned both techniques from Jiang Tingxi and he later also studied with Gao Qipei (1660-1734), an artist known for his finger paintings done in a highly impressionistic style.
After his early success in the court of Kangxi, Li Shan’s life took a turn for the worse following the death of the Kangxi Emperor in 1722. Li’s inherited family fortune was dissipated after twenty years of extravagant living and he moved to Yangzhou where he became a professional artist and befriended Zheng Xie, Huang Shen, Gao Fenghan, and other artists who wrote and painted for a living. Li Shan is best known for his works from this period, which tend to be large-scale, powerful but simple compositions on paper rendered with broad, energetic brushstrokes and copious amounts of ink. This style presumably appealed to the salt merchants and other wealthy clientele of 18th century Yangzhou, an important commercial center.
In 1738, hoping to restart his official career, Li Shan left Yangzhou and traveled to Tengxian, Shandong Province, where he served as magistrate. The handscroll Flowers, Fruits, Fish, and Vegetables was painted in Tengxian during the last year of Li’s post there. It is fitting that on this occasion Li has chosen to work, not in the wild expressive style of his Yangzhou years, but in the more orderly, carefully restrained and nuanced manner associated with his early mentor Jiang Tingxi, who was a highly successful scholar and official in the Qing court.