Gong Xian

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Landscape, c. 1650, ink on silk painting by Gong Xian, Kimbell Art Museum

Gong Xian (simplified Chinese: 龚贤; traditional Chinese: 龔賢; pinyin: Gōng Xián; Wade–Giles: Kung Hsien) (1618–1689; some sources give his birth year as early as 1617 or as late as 1620; born in Kunshan, Jiangsu) was a Chinese painter, the most important of the Eight Masters of Nanjing and the leading painter of the Nanjing school.

Primarily a landscape painter, mountains were the subject of most of Gong Xian's paintings. Willows are also a common theme in his work.

Gong Xian was a scholar loyal to the fallen Ming Dynasty, and he engaged in anti-Qing political activities in his youth. Following the fall of Nanjing to the Qing, he was forced to flee to save his life. He spent many years at Yangzhou in exile, during which he continued to author anti-Qing works, and develop his characteristic "light Gong" and "dark Gong" styles.

Gong Xian was one of the literati and known for his work with prose and poetry. It was only after the fall of Nanjing to the Qing that he took up professional painting as his primary means of making a living. However, despite painting several great pieces over his life, he ultimately died as he lived, in poverty.


  • Silbergeld, Jerome. "Kung Hsien: A Professional Chinese Artist and His Patronage." The Burlington Magazine 123.940 (July 1981): 400-410.
  • Silbergeld, Jerome. "Kung Hsien's Self-Portrait in Willows, With Notes on the Willow in Chinese Painting and Literature". Artibus Asiae 42.1 (1980): 5-36.

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