Print this page

Peggy Grosser, Chinese Sparrows

Sparrows

Sparrows

The  artist and work of art.

Almost  nothing is known about this  Australian artist other than that whe was active during the 1970s. As research continues,  this page will be updated.

Sparrows was purchased  by the University of Canberra in June 1977  from the East Asian Art Society . The work of art  is a framed watercolour  on silk that depicts a group of sparrows.  This is a charming, if whimsical work of art created much in  the style of traditional Chinese silk paintings.

Unlike Western based art, Chinese Silk paintings are not meant to be  on display on a permanent basis. Most silk paintings are only shown on special occasions  such as  new year festivals. It is why  many  Chinese silk paintings are attached to  scrolls for easy  storage.

How did Chinese artisans traditionally make silk paintings? Historically, practitioners would use a stone to smooth out the surface of the silk. Once primed, the silk was adorned with designs rendered in colorful mineral pigments or black ink (often made from soot and an animal-based adhesive). The latter was mostly used for calligraphy, one of the most important Chinese art forms and earliest incarnations of silk painting.

The earliest known evidence of silk manufacturing in China was found in the soil of a 4th-century-BCE tomb. Located in Jiahu, a Neolithic settlement near the Yellow River, this site has served as a rich source of artifacts since it was rediscovered in 1962. In addition to samples of silk fibroin, a protein, found inside the tomb (and likely the remains of garments used to dress the dead), excavations here have yielded “the earliest playable musical instrument (bone flutes), the earliest mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit, the earliest domesticated rice in northern China, and possibly the earliest Chinese pictographic writing.”

Since the Shang dynasty (circa 1600-1100 BCE), calligraphy has been an intrinsic aspect of Chinese culture. Crafted with a brush and ink, calligraphy highlights the understated beauty of handwritten characters through meticulously rendered strokes. A prime example of this art form is a series of hanging banners found in Mawangdui, an archaeological site in Changsha. These manuscripts date back to the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) and were used to document military, medical, and astronomical information.

Calligraphy was rendered on silk (and sometimes bamboo) scrolls until paper—a novel, cheaper material—was invented in the 1st century.

The University of Canberra Art Collection has a number of  Chinese paintings on silk these include works by Chuan-Chang KuoHsin Cheng Yang and David Lu.