Flower, Bird, and Insect Paintings
A typically traditional literati painting observes certain rules:
1. accurate lines,
2. powerful brush movements,
3. contrast gradations of ink,
4. interplay between dark and light, and
5. painted and unpainted space.
These are all considered necessary in order to bring out the harmony and vitality of nature. This time-tested tradition has prevailed over the thousand year history of Chinese literati painting.
Flower, Bird & Insect painting has been a popular style in Chinese traditional art. It goes back at least to the tenth century when court painters painted these subjects which became models for later generations of artists to follow. Outside the Court Academy of Painting some leading literary-scholar painters advanced their own ways of painting this genre. As a result, Bird and Flower painting became second only to landscape painting in national taste. History proves that except a brief time after 1949 when Bird and Flower painting was considered bourgeois, this form of painting has existed for the millenium just past. It is still alive and well today.
Generally, there are two different ways of painting birds and flowers. One is carefully done in detail. The other is rather sketchy with direct application of ink or color. the former tends to be more realistic, elaborate and decorative; the latter, more immediate, spontaneous, playful, and even wild.
--Charles Chu (1918-2008)
Curator and Professor Emeritus, Connecticut College
Please click on the linked images below to see some of the highlights of the collection together with explanatory text from Professor Chu. For an extensive selection of flower and insect images in the collection, see the flower and insect section in the Connecticut College Visual Resources Library gallery.
1895 - 1953