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Asian art

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Figure in a boat under a wintry tree



Ren Bonian


1840 - 1895


‘Orphaned in his early teens, Ren Bonian (also know as Ren Yi) was apprenticed to a fan shop in Shanghai. Here he learnt to paint and to copy the work of the then well-known and established artist Ren Xiong, and subsequently became his pupil. Ren Bonian’s figure paintings are distinguished by dramatic and accented brushstrokes. His inherent eloquence with brush and ink is well illustrated in the variable and expressive strokes of the tree, swift dashes of ink that define the wintry branches and the moody strokes that define the foreground rocks. He gained his fame as a portrait and figure painter but is equally known for his bird and flower subjects. This example is fully characteristic of his style: eloquent, sparse, delicate, with the brushstrokes echoing against timeless space of the background. This inscription, written by Ren Bonian in his studio in Shanghai in the third month of the ‘guizi’ year [1893] of Guangxu reign.’’

‘The Asian Collections: Art Gallery of New South Wales’. pg.166.
© 2003 Trustees, Art Gallery of New South Wales


Other Title

Figure standing in a boat

Place where the work was made

Shanghai China



Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink and light colour on paper


114.3 x 48.2 cm image; 197.0 x 61.5 x 69.0 cm scroll

Signature & date

Signed and dated u.l. to c.l., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "…in the March of the year of Guizi (1893)…Ren T Bonian.".
Signed c.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink "Ren Yi [artist's seal, square relief]".
Signed c.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink "Bo Nian [artist's seal]".


Purchased 1988


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ren Bonian

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Edmund Capon, Orientations, 'Modern Chinese Paintings in the Art Gallery of New South Wales: The Shanghai School and its Impact', pg. 104-109, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 104 (colour illus.). fig.1

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 259 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Shanghai School and Modern Painting', Sydney, 2003, 166 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Contemporary Chinese Painting, 'Ren Bonian', Sydney, 1985, 14 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Chinese Painting', pg. 42-52, Sydney, 1990, 45 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 12, 13 (illus.). 3.5

Richard, Cradles of Civilisation: China, "Ming and Qing Society: China and the West", J. Smith, Norman, Sep 1994, 163 (colour illus.).