This series of four paintings form an early masterpiece by Gao Jianfu, completed in 1905 when he was twenty-seven. He became a disciple of the renowned bird-and-flower painter, Ju Lian, at the age of fourteen. The two panels on either side feature peonies and Chinese trumpet creepers respectively, while the two in the middle feature a melon with flowers and a lotus - two subjects that were to become Gao's favourites throughout his artistic career. The artist's style at the time shows the influence of his mentor. He has used Ju Lian's well-known techniques of 'zhuangshui', or 'water infusion method', and 'zhuangfen', or 'pigment infusion method', but has added some of his own style to give the vegetation a vivid, three-dimensional quality. The fish in the water and the reflection of the moon on the water also stand out, through the application of washes for visual depth and hence, realism. Note the displacement of the four frames: the movement of the stems and tendrils, the treatment of space, and the refreshing style of the layout which distinguishes him from his predecessors. This series already points to the artistic direction that he was about to take. On three of the panels, Gao has applied the signature 'Gao Lun', a new name that he was to use in all of his future artworks in place of his former signatures. It is a significant gesture that suggests his determination to implement change.


  • Title: Flowers, melon, fish and insect
  • Creator: Gao Jianfu
  • Creator Lifespan: 1879 - 1951
  • Creator Nationality: Chinese
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Panyu, Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China
  • Date: 1905
  • Theme: Birds-and-flowers
  • Physical Dimensions: w28 x h98 cm
  • About the Artist: Gao's painting style is characterized by forceful brushwork and a heroic essence. He successfully blended Western painting styles with Chinese painting traditions and created the so-called "Zhezhong Pai" (Eclectic School). Together with his younger brother Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren, he is credited as belonging to the "Three Masters of the Lingnan School".
  • Type: Ink and colour on silk
  • Rights: Hong Kong Museum of Art

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