Li Sixun, an Outstanding Artist in the Tang Dynasty

In the Kai Yuan Period, under Emperor Tai Zong’s reign in the Tang Dynasty, General Li Sixun and his son, Li Zhaodao, were both excellent artists in portraying natural landscapes. This father and son pair of artists were given the nickname “General Li” and “General Li Junior” respectively.

Li Sixun’s landscape portraits have an elevated mood and a very unique style. He has beautifully captured the texture and realness of the mountains and rivers with the strokes of his brush. Li Sixun had an equally excellent command of portraying both animals and landscapes. His son, Li Zhaodao, put more emphasis on technique in his paintings of mountains, rivers and wild animals, which decreased their artistic quality. His composition and mastery of the brush cannot be compared to those of his father Li Sixun.

During the Tian Bao Period, Emperor Xuan Zong summoned Li Sixun to the royal court and commissioned him to paint a mural at the Da Tong Palace. When Li Sixun completed the mural, Emperor Xuan Zong said to Li Sixun, “I heard the sound of a river when I gazed at the mountains and rivers in the mural at the Da Tong Palace. You are truly the god of painting and number one in natural landscape painting.”

It is not much of an exaggeration to call Li Sixun’s paintings the works of a god and Li Zhaodao’s paintings, masterpieces.

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