Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Michael Sullivan: A Life of Art and Friendship

(from 11th Mar until 14th Sep 2014)

A commemorative exhibition in memory of Michael Sullivan, leading scholar of Chinese art.

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Landscape with blue mountain

  • loan
  • Description

    Qi Baishi (1863-1957) is one of the most renowned artists of 20th century China. A native of Xiangtan, Hunan province, he was an apprentice to a carpenter in his early years and later became a professional painter. He finally settled in Beijing in 1920, where he was strongly influenced by scholar painters, notably Chen Hengke (1876-1923). It was in Beijing and developed his mature, vigorous style. Qi is famous for plant paintings featuring strong contrast of black ink and vibrant red, and for his vivid ink depictions of shrimps, frogs, and insects. The inscription reads ‘It is easier to plant than to paint trees. I spent my whole life in painting until my hair turned white and my eyes blind. Would anyone appreciate the mountains after rain under my brush? Baishi at eighty-nine, painted and inscribed with an old poem.’ Qi Baishi and Michael Sullivan (1916-2013) never met. The paintings by Qi Baishi in Michael’s collection are mostly bequeathed by Geoffrey Hedley (died 1958). This painting, however, is an exception. It was a gift from two noted translators, Yang Xianyi (1915-2009) and his wife Gladys (1919-1999).

    Yang Xianyi and Gladys met at Oxford in the 1930s, when Xianyi was studying classics at Merton College and Glady was studying Chinese. The couple returned to China in 1940 and began introducing Chinese classics to the English-speaking world. Michael met and became friends with the couple in 1940s in west Guiyang, Guizhou province, when he was working for the International Red Cross. During the Cultural Revolution, both Yang and Gladys were arrested and held for four years. When Khoan (1919-2003) and Michael visited the couple in Beijing in 1973 after their release, Yang opened a cupboard that had been sealed during their incarceration , selected this fine painting and gave it to them.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaChinaHebei province Beijing (place of creation)
    Qi Baishi (1864 - 1957) (artist)
    Qi Baishi (1864 - 1957) (calligrapher)
    Material and technique
    ink and colour on paper
    painting 94.3 x 61.7 cm (height x width)
    along roller 82 cm (length)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    On loan from the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Sullivan, Michael, Modern Chinese Art: The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection, revised edn (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2009), no. 101 on p. 120, illus. p.120 fig. II.101

    Sullivan, Michael, Art and Artists of Twentieth Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 9, illus. p. 10 fig. I.3

    Christopher Brown, ‘The Burlington Magazine, Acquisitions (1998-2014) at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 1139, (2014)

Past Exhibition

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    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.



Objects from past exhibitions may have now returned to our stores or a lender. Click into an individual object record to confirm whether or not an object is currently on display. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis, so please contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular Eastern Art object.

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