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Seals of Ren Bonian

posted on 2023-06-08, 06:19 authored by Chia-Ling Yang
Ren Bonian was one of the most popular and productive painters in late nineteenth-century China who produced more than fifteen hundred pieces of paintings.When Ren Bonian became addicted to opium in the late 1880s, he slowed down his artistic development and his daughter and students began to paint for him. Some followers even forged his paintings after Ren’s death under the financial pressure. Therefore, a large number of questionable paintings are collected in the museums and private hands today. In addition to the stylistic analysis on his painting, we should consider an understanding of Ren Bonian’s habitual use of seals a useful tool for studying the authenticity of his painting. My study of Ren Bonian’s seals is building on the forty-three seals collected in the Zhongguo shuhuajia yinjian kuanshi (Index of seal and signature of Chinese painters and calligraphers, Shanghai: Shuhua chubanshe, 1996), and on fifty-eight seals collected in Wang Yuntian’s “Ren Bonian changyong yinkao” (Wang Yuntian, “Ren Bonian changyong yinkao”, Shanghai Museum Bulletin, No. 7, 1996, 233~247). After several years of fieldwork in the museum storages in the world and having examined around one thousand paintings attributed to Ren Bonian, in this paper I gather an index of seventy-three seals, list of sources, and chronological charts of the use of each seal. Although one cannot make a judgment on the precise number of seals Ren had actually used or the precise starting dates of each seal, and although different degrees of humidity of the ink pad and the varied strength with which one pressed the stamp on different materials would also bring different visual results, still a knowledge of his seals and a scientific analysis can help us to identify a fabrication especially when the forger is familiar with the exemplar’s painting style and writing.


Publication status

  • Published


Calligraphy and Painting Press

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Book title

Ren Bonian Yanjiu

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Department affiliated with

  • Art History Publications


English translation: Studies on Ren Bonian

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Lu Fusheng

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