As the Painter-in-Attendance serving the Imperial Painting Academy during the reign of Emperor Ningzong (1201-1204) of the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279), Liang Kai excelled in painting figures, landscapes, Buddhist and Taoist themes, spirits and deities. His incomparable painting skills won him recognition from not only his peers but also the emperor. Liang, however, known for his unrestrained manners, refused to accept the supreme honor, the Golden Belt bestowed by the emperor, rather, he left it on the wall of the academy.
Calling himself “Madman Liang”, Liang Kai was crazy about drinking wine. Most of his extant works are paintings with few cursive strokes employing the technique of “abbreviated brush”, meaning reduced number of brushstrokes. A drunkenimmortal with atottering step and a charmingly naïve countenance was depicted in this work by the artist with flowing strokes and well-splashed ink. It seems that the painter himself must have improvised this works after drinking wine so that he managed to create a vivid deity with an unusual appearance and funny looks by using just several strokes.
Liang, under the influence of Zen, had shrugged off the yokes that painting should be a truthful representation of the archetype, a practice advocated by the official painting school of the Song Dynasty, and proposed to convey the spirit and temperaments of the characters with few free strokes. In order to do so, he applied the ink-splashing technique used in the landscape painting into the illustration of figures, developing his only style of conveying the spirit with restrained use of ink, which has exerted a great influence on painting of both China and Japan.