Li Keran, a new way

Today, we visit a Chinese artist, who is lauded as one of the greatest and most influential of the 20th century. His name – #LiKeran (1907-1989). A gifted and artistic child, Li’s talents extended from painting, to calligraphy, to music. He studied both traditional Chinese and Western art techniques. While at Shanghai Art College, he became inspired in the blending of eastern and western techniques to create a new form of expression in painting. From 1934, Li began to develop his work using ink and wash. He painted water buffalo and cowboys. Using his new ‘splashed ink’ technique, he was able to give new life to these traditional subjects. The appreciation of his work grew leading to an invitation (1946) via Xu Beihong to join the faculty at the Beijing National Art College. There he was mentored by Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong. Neither traditionalist nor reformist, Li is rather a painter remembered as a pioneer. A man who led the way in combining traditional and modern techniques into a new expression. The watercolour in my collection is signed ‘Keran’ and has one artist seal. It shows a young herdsman riding a water buffalo with another nearby. It displays his wonderful technique of shading using ink and wash.

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