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Feng Qizhen
Feng Kebin
(paintings dated 1622-1640)

“Bamboo and Rock” 1637

Hanging scroll, ink on satin
155.0 x 50.0 cm. (61 x 19 3/4 in.)

Inscriptions by the artists:
Lower left: “Kebin painted the stone.”
Upper left: “The eight-four-year old man
Feng Qizhen added the bamboo.”

Artists’ seals:
Lower left: Zhenqing
Upper left: Feng Qizhen yin; Shendan guyou

According to the inscriptions, the rocks in the lower portion were painted first. Rather pale and undulating lines contour these forms, creating rhythmic patterns which were then accentuated with strong black strokes. Varying in size and orientation for visual interest, the forms are arranged so as to create some semblance of solidity and spatial recession. In contrast to the rather delicate lineament of the rocks, the bamboo were created with much bolder, more powerful strokes, with leaves outspread to create a strong design in the frontal picture plane. The leaves and stalks vary in ink tonality, the dark and wet ink penetrating deep into the satin ground and suffusing softly while the lighter ink recedes into the background, supporting the spatial design created by the arrangement of rocks. Within the limits imposed by the conscious restriction of pictorial elements, the painting is vibrant with life and rich with formal contrasts.

Given the success with which the two artists worked cooperatively, it is not to be wondered that they were intimately related, father and son, with the elder at age 84 painting with the confidence of decades of experience and the son still more restrained. Feng Qizhen (1553-1642?) was born in Yidu, Shandong province, and became a student at the Metropolitan Grand Study Hall. Already by 1595 Feng was painting bamboo, the subject in which he specialized throughout his life. The birth-date of his son, Feng Kebin, is not recorded but he earned his jinshi degree in 1622 and later served as vice-minister at the Court of Imperial Sacrifices.

A number of works done together by the father and son were painted on satin, a material well-suited to the display of expert control of brush and ink. The inscriptions on several works done jointly by the two indicate that they were painted while the artists were in Beijing, and the present painting from 1637 was very likely done there as well.

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