The painting, Old Man 1939 by Jiang Zhaohe 蒋兆和 (1904-1986). hanging scroll ink and color on paper. (66 X 45.5 cm. 926 x 17 7/8 in.)
In this painting we see the emphasis on realism. Old Man is extremely vivid in detail, perhaps best encompassing the ability of Jiang Zhaohe to artistically capture human faces well. The use of traditional ink and brush material combined with the more modern portrayal of a human face make this pieces remarkable. The precision of the shading, wrinkles and fine lines that underscore the Realistic them seen in the Old Man reflect Jiang Zhaohe’s art education. Jiang Zhaohe had an extensive art background, being a professor of sketching at Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, from 1930-1932 and also showing particular interest for western style painting early ( It’s perhaps within the integration of Zhaohe‘s interest that led to the culmination of his beautiful portraits. The synergy of western influence combined with masterful traditional tools allow this piece to have a lot of Chinese essence while being aesthetically pleasing.

Artistically the composition of this art is beautiful. The most notable aspect of this painting is the contacts between the body and the face. Although the human body is captured masterfully and proportionately, it lacks details past superficial strokes that portray minimal detail. What this allows is for the focal point to instead lie within the shaded, realistic face. The shading allows for the old man’s face to display emotion, perhaps the most important reason for this contrasting technique. We can see the expression of pensive or sadness. There seems to be a grading effect, the detail fades drastically as one moves their eyes away from the face. Placing this work in context amongst Zhaohes other works reveals the patriotic themes often portrayed in his works, most notable of these was Refugees (Andrews, kuiyi: 128). The choice to emphasize a face of a Chinese’s details the portrayals of emotions.



Andrews, Kuiyi: The art of Modern China, 2012. University of California Press.