Human Figure Paintings

Tong Zhen-guo (b. 1950)
Two Immortals Playing Chess

Chinese Ink on Rice Paper, Framed, 18 1/5 x 37 3/8 in., (47 x 95 cm.)

Chu Griffis Collection #85In Chinese figural painting, body posture and facial expressions are important. Calmness, seriousness and peacefulness are the normal characteristics. Robes and other details are painted in a less serious manner. In this genre the bold, loose and free lines are to emphasize solemn faces and add dynamic contrast. The often-mentioned "awkwardness" in brush and ink methods is meant to mark naturalness and to avoid the word "pretty."

Mr. Tong favors this style of painting. He is recognized as another innovator in this field. True, he is on the path of tradition. He used ink alone in his early years and now applies subtle colors. The figures he painted are without exception, humorous and playful. Our painting is a good example. One immortal struggles to make a next move, the other one confidently enjoys another sip of wine.

Chinese art books often say that "What one paints reflects the personality of the artist." Mr. Tong who is a professor of art at the China National Academy of Fine Art (now on leave in this country) is a modest, talented scholar-artist who says about his art: "My focus is on drawing an idea with color. I want to build my art on the basis of tradition and to move from there with bold and steady steps." I share his feelings, and I look forward to seeing more of his creativity unfold.

Currently Mr. Tong is in California. Through the efforts of John Sargent of the Oriental Art league, Tong visited our area and gave workshops and demonstrations in Old Lyme. We hope to see him regularly.

Purchased with funds provided by Kathy Phelan Willis, 1995.