Chinese Painting or Wood Block Print?

Discussion in 'Art' started by Shunkpenn, Mar 28, 2020.

  1. Shunkpenn

    Shunkpenn Member

    Spending some time during our "home shelter" experience going through some of my hoarding collection. I picked this large scroll painting up a few years ago and never completed my research. Looking for some more opinions as to whether it is an actual painting or wood block print. Any thoughts are appreciated. Stay healthy!

    IMG_3115.jpg IMG_3114.jpg IMG_3113.jpg IMG_3111.jpg
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  2. flipper

    flipper Striving to face adversity with tact and humor

    Could you show us the entire picture? What is the size?
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  3. Shunkpenn

    Shunkpenn Member

    The measurements are 55"x 23.5". Here is another pic. IMG_3116.jpg
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  4. KikoBlueEyes

    KikoBlueEyes Well-Known Member

    I see what you mean. It has that painted in after the fact look.
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  5. aaroncab

    aaroncab in veritate victoria

    Depicts Guan-yin, I think.
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  6. Robert Walker

    Robert Walker Love to learn...

    Hi Shunkpenn,

    Looking at your photo's closely I noticed a 'pattern' on the paper at the sides. It is 'cut off' by a vertical straight line. (See photo, I enhanched/messed around with a crop of a pic to make it more visible.) This is usually and very likely an indication, that it is a print; a stone or block was used. The pressure on the paper tends to create a straight line, like seen on you picture . Also what might be fun/good to do to get more info on what the depiction is of. (And possible find others online.) I personally would try is use the google translate app and use the option of using you camera. You aim it at the text and it gets translated! (See photo, left icon.)

    Last but not least, of you have a magnifying glass, that will give you a lof of info. If you don't know what to look for, or just want to learn more about recognizing a type of print, this is a very useful and informative site: All the best, Robert.

    fullsizeoutput_2e89.jpeg fullsizeoutput_2e8a.jpeg Take care, Robert.
  7. KikoBlueEyes

    KikoBlueEyes Well-Known Member

    Excellent information. Thank you so much!
  8. Shunkpenn

    Shunkpenn Member

    Thanks Robert...never used that app. I will give it a try. Also, here is another pic of the back of the scroll.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  9. JayBee

    JayBee Well-Known Member

    Painting, not woodblock print. Guan Yin from the Bai Miao Temple.

  10. Shunkpenn

    Shunkpenn Member

    [!QUOTE="JayBee, post: 1852452, member: 9259"]Painting, not woodblock print. Guan Yin from the Bai Miao Temple.[/QUOTE]
    Being a novice, what characteristics help determine a painting vs print? Thanks!
    KikoBlueEyes likes this.
  11. JayBee

    JayBee Well-Known Member

    Whish there was a set formula 100% full proof for this, but truth is, there isn't. In some cases it's quite clear what you have in front of you, a painting or a woodblock print. In such cases I would say that it's mostly based on experience, and that many factors come into play, from the object itself, subject, paper, mounting, brushwork, etc . In other cases, however, especially when it comes to Chinese art, it isn't that simple. The art of woodblock printing, commonly known as muban shuiyin, or dou ban in China, was taken to such a high level, as coming out of some studios (the most notable ones being Ring Bao Zhai in Beijing, Duo Yun Xuan in Shanghai and Yang Liu Qing in Tianjin,) that a woodblock print piece can be worth a LOT of money. These pieces were reproductions of actual real paintings, not original work destined for serial production as prints. They weren't produced like, for example, Japanese woodblock prints. The objective was the same as colotype or reproductions by similar mechanical means. Given this characteristic, not all woodblock prints looked 100% alike, as the technique of application of ink to the woodblocks, also required the use of a painting brush applied to the blocks, knowledge on how to control the amount of water, how the ink would blend, transfer to the paper, etc. So the same painting when ten, twenty, one hundred prints were made, could result in as many slightly unique variations. That alone made them more difficult to recognize as a print rather than a paint. Let me share an example: famous Chinese artist QI Baishi, was once shown side-by-side a woodblock print of one of his paintings, and the mounted original. It is said that after repeatedly looking back and forth at the two, he could not tell which was which! Rong Bao Zhai, the studio that was charged with the reproduction, was proud to share this story as part of their (justified!) bragging about the quality of their work. The old masters who did this work have one-by-one passed away, with few remaining alive, and very few young people are willing to follow in their footsteps. It's a laborious process with little reward, they say. Visiting the Rong Bao Zhai studio workshops was one of the highlights of my 40+ years living in Beijing, and that was a privilege I was granted as a result of being an avid collector of their work. Today, pieces that back in the 1980s cost a few dollars, with some more elaborate pieces costing in the hundreds, or a little over a thousand, can't be today purchased for thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.
    Another story, pertaining to a piece in my possession, this one from the Duo Yun Xuan studio in Shanghai. This one is a reproduction of a painting, a horizontal scroll, by XU Wei, a Ming dynasty painter. It's a 30 copy edition (of which maybe only 10 if that many were printed,) which back in the late 1980s I bought for around $200 (a small fortune back then, as my pay check was then about 1/3 of that!) In Chinese money, that was YUAN RMB 1,250. Years went by. In the early 2000s I participated in the Beijing International Book Fair. Duo Yun Xuan had a booth there. When I visited, one of their choice pieces exhibited was a copy of this scroll --- of lower quality than the one in my keeping, I was eager to notice. I got into chatting with the gentleman there and told him how I was lucky enough to own a copy of it. Whirhout blinking he told me, "Bring it over tomorrow and I'll buy it back from you for 200,000 YUAN RMB." When I told him I did not intend to sell it, he doubled the offer. I told him I wouldn't sell it for any price, and he smirked, and said, "You are lucky, and you are smart!"
    Most of these pieces are now only purchased and reserved for museums.
    Fact is that with new advances in reproduction techniques and printing, these will become truly unique pieces. No one sees the point of spending months or years working on these, when a good camera / scanner and a quality EPSON 11 color inkjet printer will reproduce the same artwork faithfully.
    Sorry for the long rant. Hope some of it helps and answers the question you asked.

    Being a novice, what characteristics help determine a painting vs print? Thanks![/QUOTE]
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
  12. JayBee

    JayBee Well-Known Member

    Wrong board/forum, wrong post? LOL

  13. KikoBlueEyes

    KikoBlueEyes Well-Known Member

    This is just an annoying person who pastes random stuff on various member's posts. Report it and they will be zapped.
  14. Shunkpenn

    Shunkpenn Member


    Thanks so much for your thoughts and tutorial. Very interesting.
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