Jin Nong

Portrait of Jin Nong by Luo Ping in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of Jin Nong by Luo Ping in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jin Nong (1687-1760) 金農 was born in Hangzhou. He became popular as a painter and calligrapher while living as a childless widower in Yangzhou in his sixties. His paintings of plum blossoms were in particular demand.

A pioneer of the movement to revive the art before the Jin and Tang Dynasties, he was one of the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou. An ardent student of ancient artifacts, he went so far as to make his calligraphy look as if it were engraved on metal and stone.

A nonconformist, he generally painted more traditional images laden with symbolism (such as orchids, bamboo, chrysanthemums, and mei blossoms). His later style included Buddhist imagery. He was the first artist in the Chinese tradition to paint a large number of self-portraits and did earn money through the patronage of wealthy individuals in Yangzhou who, in addition to buying works, were possible publishers for his numerous writings. Jin argued that living off of painting should not be considered dishonorable.

Jin Nong also made money as a writer and general entrepreneur. He was known to travel with a number of disciple-servants who assisted in the production of ink stones and lanterns to which he would add a personal artistic touch. It was through the sale
of these items that Jin achieved financial independence; his single, failed attempt to compete for office was in the year 1736. He became widely known for his writings, but when his health began to fail, painting became his principal source of income and he in fact acknowledged the use of ghost-painters as a way to increase production. He continued to write throughout this time and was a critic as well as a dealer of paintings. There is some confusion about Jin’s year of death, but it was most likely 1763 or 1764.

He also had a reputation as a calligrapher creating a style he called “lacquer calligraphy.”

  • Pinyin: Jīn Nóng
  • Wade-Giles: Chin Nung
"Willows" by Jin Nong, in the Tianjin Municipal Art Museum

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