|Ch'iu Ying (ca. 1494-1552)
Ch'iu Ying, a native of T'ai-ts'ang, Kiangsu, resided in Soochow. From a humble background, he is said to have started as a lacquer artisan. He later excelled at painting landscapes and figures. In his early years, he studied under Chou Ch'en (ca. 1460-1535), but later he met T'ang Yin and Wen Cheng-ming of Soochow. He also turned to the essence of T'ang and Sung masters to create a style of his own. During his career, he was invited by such famous collectors as Hsiang Yuan-pien (1525-1590), Chou Feng-lai (1523-1555), and Ch'en Kuan to paint at their residences, where Ch'iu had the opportunity to copy the works in their collections and learn more about ancient styles.
With his fine and beautiful style, Ch'iu Ying was known as one of the Four Masters of the Ming. His fine-style figure paintings follow the T'ang and Sung models in a beautifully delicate manner, of which "Spring Morning in the Han Palace" is representative. Such works as "Whiling Away Summer in the Shade of Plantain", "Pure Conversation in the Shade of Firmiana", and "Pair of Horses", however, are done with coarser brushwork. The Yuan and Ming abbreviated literati style were fused with the Southern Sung academic foundations. Furthermore, works in the outline manner, such as "Playing the Zither and Guitar Under a Pine", reflect a style closer to that of Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559).
Even during his lifetime, Ch'iu Ying was praised and his influence spread to literati, folk, and court painting of the Ming and Ch'ing, serving as testimony to his reputation as a painter of unsurpassed skill.