Qi Baishi, Cicada, c. 1950

Who is Qi Baishi?

The Chinese artist, Qi Baishi (1864-1957), created the most expensive painting sold in the world last year.

His Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree with Four-character Couplet in Seal Script, which he painted in 1946, sold for $65 million.  The price for this was higher than those paid for large canvases by Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein, Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, and a small one by Pablo Picasso.

To see a Chinese artist among those whose work is fetching millions on the art market is not terribly unusual today.  The Chinese are avid art collectors and they have the money these days to buy it.  They also, quite naturally, prefer to buy Chinese art after Mao Zedong destroyed or suppressed much of their cultural heritage with his Cultural Revolution.

There is not a photograph of Qi Baishi’s $65 million painting available for reuse, but to see it, you can click here.

Above is another painting by the artist that is characteristic of his style.  He painted scenes from nature with broad, brash, and open brushwork.   He tended to focus upon the smaller things from the natural world like cicadas, as we see here.  He was well known for his paintings of shrimp.  He used lots of ink and worked with quick, broad gestures that both embodied the vivacity of nature and his love for it.  Celebrated for his economy of line, he could capture the essence of his subject with one spontaneous and quick brushstroke.  The slight awkwardness is part of the charm of his compositions.  It betrays the subjective, human touch and its emotional origins.

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