Pan Tianshou [潘天壽] (1897–1971) By Wu, Yao
Pan Tianshou was a 20th-century Chinese painter, calligrapher, and art teacher. A dedicated advocate of guohua [國畫], he is highly esteemed for his dynamic landscape and bird-and-flower paintings imbued with a literati aesthetic. Tianshou argued for a distinct separation between Chinese and Western painting, wrote extensively on Chinese art history and theory, and devoted himself to the proliferation and education of China’s artistic heritage. He directed guohua instruction at the national art academy in Hangzhou from its founding in 1928, and was associated with the school until the time of his death. Pan’s paintings are known for their bold composition, his vigorous application of brushstrokes and ink splashes, tonal variation, his occasional use of fingers as an unmediated medium, and poetic inscriptions executed in refined calligraphy. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Pan went on government-sponsored sketching expeditions, while also creating an immense range of public artworks that glorified the beauty of the new nation. Pan was severely persecuted shortly after the onset of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), however, and died in 1971.