Portrait of Sao Yong by Ren Yi (Ren Bonian 1840–1895). Ren often painted portraits of his fellow artists in contemplative poses. PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN.
Painting as an art form came into its own in the Han dynasty, and would later join poetry and calligraphy as one of the “three perfections” of the scholar-gentleman (wenren). Styles of post-imperial painting were affected by political turmoil, repression, and ensuing reforms; twenty-first century