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T: Ch'iu-yüeh H: Hsin-lo shan-jen Hua Yen was born in Lin-t'ing, Fuchien province, but moved to Hangchou and then Yangchou, both major painting centers in the early eighteenth century. He was very active with a group of artists who had been involved in various ways with the late seventeenth-century painter Tao-chi. By the 1730s, Hua Yen's compositions follow those of that master of the spontaneous and unexpected. Hua Yen is a major, very versatile artist of the first half of the eighteenth-century . . . and very famous now. Quite a lot of his work is around, but this is a very special subject. [When I bought this work] it looked kind of coarse, with a five-character title, plus the seal of Hua Yen, but no signature. And it was not published. [However] the animals are very sensitively painted. You can see through the smoke and fire and see the line of red fire going across. [There is] wonderful use of ink, a highly unconventional painting. In this period, in Yangchou, and in eighteenth-century painting generally, something gives way in the restrictions on subject matter and suddenly they could do things with sort of ominous or painful overtones. This has become a favorite painting, partly because it breaks the rules. Over the years, as I have said to many people now, I have come to value more the odd corners, the dissidents, the unorthodox, I mean people who really break the rules. There are lots of painters in Yangchou who are eccentric, but [I mean] painters who really break new ground, like this one.
Painting Album leaf mounted as hanging scroll: ink and color on paper China h 21 x w 20 -3/4 inches