Xu Beihong (1895-1953) was a renowned modern Chinese painter and fine arts educator adept at paintings of figures, animals, birds and flower, and especially known for his horse paintings. As an advocate for realism in artistic creation, Xu attached great importance to light and shadow, modelling, as well as accurate understanding of the structure or skeleton of subjects in his painting. He also articulated the integration of western painting techniques in traditional Chinese painting and stressed the importance of connotations of artworks, exerting great influence on the Chinese painting history.
The painting on this fan panel illustrates in the foreground a horse drinking from a creek in the shade of pine trees against a background of landscape in light ink. Combining fine and freehand brushwork, the artist depicted pine trees and the horse in light ink alternating heavy ink, accentuating the tall, straight and forceful features of the trees as well as the muscular body and robust character of the horse. The drinking horse, with bulging nostrils, erected ears, flowing mane, is even more lifelike being placed in a well-designed composition that balances the dynamics in the foreground and the still background, all testimony to the ingenious horse-painting skills of the artist.