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Asian art

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Two mice and an oil lamp

20th century


Qi Baishi


1863 - 1957


QI Baishi (also known as Qi Huang amongst numerous other names) was one of the most famous painters of twentieth century China. He came from a poor peasant family in Hunan Province, not learning to paint until he was 27 years old. Qi Baishi was to go to both Eastern and Western sources to gain an understanding of painting including the Mustard Seed Garden Painters Manual, and also copied photographs to learn realistic portraiture painting in 1889. For the next 10 years he would go on to learn calligraphy, poetry and seal carving. Qi Baishi's prominence comes in his contribution to a new style of painting that assembled skills employed in 'woodblock design, realistic representation and calligraphic brushstrokes' (Fong 2001:142).

Later in his 40s Qi Baishi travelled extensively throughout China, and was to be influenced by artists such as Chen Hengke. Although he was to settle in Beijing in 1919, the nostalgia he felt for his peasant life could still be seen in his paintings. Throughout his lifetime he was a prolific painter, painting such subjects as plants bamboo, palm trees, lotus blossoms, or vegetables and animals such as birds, insects, fish, shrimps, crabs, frogs, cats and mice.

With the help of Lin Fengmian he was to join the Beijing Academy in 1927 as a professor teaching traditional painting. He had been awarded a number of accolades during his lifetime, including Chinese Peoples Distinguished Artist in 1953 and the International Peace Prize by the World Peace Council in 1955.

The work presented here features 2 mice eating cherries, in front of an oil lamp. Some of his earlier work made reference to an oil lamp next to an inkstand, and this work similarly alludes to a melancholy, or reminiscence of his simple life in the past. The inscription reads, Old Man of White Stone, Master of the Jieshanyin Studio ('Jieshanyin guan zhu zhe bai shi lao ren').

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, 2007


Place where the work was made



20th century

Media category


Materials used

ink and colour on paper


80.0 x 35.0 cm image

Signature & date

Signed u.r., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "…Baishi laoren". Not dated.
Signed c.r., in Chinese, stamped in red ink "Baishi [artist's seal]".


Gift of Nancy and Terry Lee in memory of Nancy's husband Charles, father of Terry 2007


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Qi Baishi

Works in the collection



Where the work was made