Apprisal of Chinese Painting


Understand Essentials

Identification forms the basis for reliability. It focuses on the physical features of an artwork, ranging from signature and seals, inscriptions (primary and secondary), techniques (brushstrokes, shading) and format (hand, hanging scroll, fan, album), to condition.,

Verificationunderlines the importance of not taking the given information, inscriptions, colophons, history of ownership, for granted. It emphasizes on seeking the truth, finding out the trances of a forger or the red flags in provenance statements in order to avoid a wrong conclusion.

RankingCriteria for judging the quality of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy balances the compatibility of comparables. It details an analytical approach to the representation of subject matter, format, dynastic style vs. individuality, techniques, aesthetic standards, provenance and visual appeal.

Market Researchemphasizes theimpact of marketplaces, condition, economics and trends on value. Adopting “an apple for apple” rather than “a good apple for a rotten apple” approach in the assessment of the compatibility of comparables stresses relevance. An adequate market research often sheds light on value, enabling a fact-based value reconciliation.

Value Reconcliation refers to a balanced approach to the desirability assessment. The market appreciation of an original differs from that of a quality copy, imitation or fake, since the resemblance between them does not determine authenticity. A ‘mediocre original by the master” cannot be compared with a “quality copy by a skilled artist.” Other value features, such as subject matter, format, size, condition and visual appeal) can either increase or decrease desirability or value.


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-Most Up-to-Date Guidebook (2022)

Wei Yang’s Guide to Chinese Painting and Calligraphy (Tianjin: Nankai University Press, 2022) provides the most effective guidance on the appreciation and appraisal of Chinese painting and calligraphy prior to 1911. Derived from Dr. Yang’s study notes, this guidebook offers a structured road map for the study of Chinese fine arts. It introduces the fundamental framework for Chinese fine arts, discusses issues concerning identification, dating, ranking criteria, authenticity, and the guidelines for the connoisseurship of classical Chinese painting and calligraphy. The chapter on the Basics focuses on key physical features of a Chinese painting (medium, format, signature, seal and iconography) to shed light on authenticity. Discussion chapters centering on leading painters, their original works, artistic affiliation signature and seals, and popular fakes, artistic movements, schools of the time, references, and market trends, provides a workable guideline to the valuation of classical Chinese painting and calligraphy. The biography of leading painters and the stylistic analysis of each’s signature features and key references offers a quick access to the needed background information.

Overall, this guidebook removes the mystery from understanding and appraising classical Chinese painting and calligraphy and guides the reader through a logical, comprehensive system of professional judgment.


-Attribution & Authenticity

Cahill, James. An Index of Early Chinese Painters and Paintings: T’ang, Sung and Yuan. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983).
Li, Chu-tsing, et al., eds. Artists and Patrons: Some Social and Economic Aspects of Chinese Painting (Kansas City and Seattle: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, University of Washington Press, 1989).
Lu Fushen. Jinxiandai shuhuajia kuanyin zonghui (Signatures and Seals of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Painters and Calligraphers), 2 vols (Shanghai: Shuhua, 2002).
Murck, Alfreda. Poetry and Painting in Song China: The Subtle Art of Dissent(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000).
Ni Wendong. Ershi shiji Zhongguo shuhuajia yinkuan cidian (Signatures and Seals of Artists of the 20th Century), 2 vols (Xi’an: Shenzhen Zhonghua Commercial Press, 2008).
Shanghai bowuguan. Zhongguo shuhuajia yinjian kuanshi (Signatures and Seals of Chinese Painters and Calligraphers), 2 vols. (Beijing: Wenwu, 1987).
Yu Jianhua. Zhongguo meishujia renming cidian (Dictionary of Chinese Painter’s Names) (Shanghai: Renmin meishu, 1981).
Zhong Yinlan. Zhongguo jiancangjia yinjian daquan (A Complete Collection Seals of Chinese Collectors), 2 vols. (Nanchang: Jiangxi meishu, 2008).


-Criticism & Craftsmanship

Cai Jinshun. Shanshuihua cunfa (The Shading Techniques in Landscape Painting) (Tianjin: Yangliuqing, 2014).
Dong Zuobin. Zhongguo nianli zongpu (A Complete Index of Chinese Calendar), 2 vols. (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1960).
Fang Shiming. Zhongguo lishi jinian biao (Chronology of Chinese History), rev. ed. (Shanghai: renmin, 2007).
Wu, Hung. The Double-Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (Chicago: The Chicago University Press, 1996).
Yu Fei’an. Zhongguohua yanse de yanjiu (A Study of Colors in Chinese Painting) (Beijing: lianhe, 2013).