3 Chinese Artists You Should Know

There are lots of amazing Chinese painters. It was very difficult to talk about just three. These are important painters that are also my personal favorites. If I left your favorite off of my list, please add him or her in the comments so that others can see more Chinese artists.

1. Wang Wei (699-759)

Are you good at poetry? Would you trust it to save your life? Wang Wei was that good. A noted poet and painter during the Tang dynasty, Wang Wei was accused of being a traitor by the emperor during the An-Shi rebellion. His poems were used as evidence of his loyalty and got him off of death row (also with a little help from his brother.)

But isn’t this a blog about painting? Well, we have mentioned before how important poetry is to Chinese painting. Wang Wei’s works are considered to be one of the early pinnacles of the match between words and painting. Not only that, his paintings have been noted for their therapeutic value. When one of Wang Wei’s friends fell ill, he credited his recovery to the peaceful feeling he got looking at Wang Wei’s paintings.


Wang Wei’s pictures are paradigmatic of traditional Chinese painting. His paintings are very detailed and noted for their realism. While some of his contemporaries would exaggerate the luxurious elements of their paintings (especially if they were painting parts of the Emperor’s palace,) Wang Wei was committed to showing the natural beauty of whatever he was painting.

2. Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)

When you see a painting of a hill, or a river, or a home, do you think it is political? In an odd way, Wu Guanzhong’s paintings are political. In a time where most prominent artists were eager to work in the field of propaganda, Wu Guanzhong stuck to the traditional subject matters of Chinese painting. This is not to say that Wu Guanzhong was in any way anti-China.  To the contrary, he showed a very pure love of his country with his creative pictures of the countryside.


Wu Guanzhong was also a pioneer in blending traditional Chinese painting with Western styles. In the late 1940s Wu Guanzhong visited Europe and was able to see what else was going on in the art world. His paintings are clearly rooted in traditional Chinese painting, especially his minimal use of color. The Western influence on his work allowed him to move beyond simplistic descriptions of a cross between Western and Chinese styles to have a style that was all his own.


3. Zhang Wenbin (1938-)

Zhang Wenbin is a student of Wu Guanzhong. He took one look at Wu Guanzhong’s paintings and could not believe his eyes; he did not think that Chinese painting could look like that. Inspiration does not mean a blind copy, however. Zhang Wenbin took the idea of an expanded color palette in Chinese painting and ran with it. His bright, expressive paintings are explosive in their use of the contrast between black and white and color.


This painting is a particular favorite. It makes me think of Chinese painting mixed with abstract and surreal painting.


Check out Zhang Wenbin’s official site here.

You can have a look at my paintings here. Though I love Chinese watercolor paintings. I don’t paint in a traditional style. But do you think any of these Chinese techniques have influenced my style?


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