明 陳子和 古木酒仙圖 軸 Drunken Immortal beneath an old tree
Chen Zihe (Chinese, active early 16th century)
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
early 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
Image: 69 in. × 40 1/4 in. (175.3 × 102.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 9 ft. 9 in. × 47 3/8 in. (297.2 × 120.3 cm) Overall with knobs: 9 ft. 9 in. × 52 in. (297.2 × 132.1 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Oscar L. Tang Family, 2005
Not on view
By the end of the fifteenth century the court had ceased to be the principal patron of the arts, so professional painters turned to private sponsors and to the marketplace as outlets for their work, adopting a bravura style of execution that transformed painting into a kind of performance art. Using an idiom of bold monochrome brushwork and graded ink washes first employed by Chan (Zen) Buddhist monk-artists during the thirteenth century, these artists made compositions with dazzling virtuosity, often before astonished onlookers.
The Fukinese painter Chen Zihe was a significant regional master in this tradition who took the sobriquet "Uninhibited Immortal" to emphasize his rejection of convention. Chen's humorous and somewhat provocative image of a drunken immortal exhibits all the key conventions of his craft. The shallow picture space and tight composition are constructed of powerful diagonals that intensify the dramatic focus, while highly animated brushwork offers a lively counterpoint to the massive scale of the pictorial elements, many of which are truncated by the frame.