In Chinese paintings, one important genre is figure painting. Nevertheless, images with children as the main subject are relatively rare. It was not until the time of the Six Dynasties (220-589) that children became the main focus in paintings, and scenes of children playing joyfully became popular during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
This piece by Su Hanchen from the Song Dynasty features two children playing outside on a winter’s day. The main characters are an older girl and a young boy. The setting is a courtyard. The two children are teasing a kitten with a peacock feather and a banner.
The girl wears a white gown with a dark pressed lining and the boy is in a light brown shirt and jacket with pressed red lining and trousers with print motif.
In the background, there are plum blossoms, camellias, orchids, bamboo, and unique-shaped rocks. The painter executed realist brushstroke techniques to first outline the objects, then finely filled in the outlines by wrinkling, rubbing, dotting, dyeing or coloring to construct substance and definition, and ultimately to convey the artistic concept of the painting.
Su Hanchen (mid 12th century) was a native of Kaifeng, Henan Province. He was a Painter-in-Attendance at the imperial academy during the Xuanhe era under Emperor Huizong of the Northern Song Dynasty and resumed his position after the court moved south due to the invasion by the Jurchens.
Writer: Zheng Xingzhi
Translated by Cecilia