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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Eagle on a Branch

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

Eagle on a Branch

ca. 1928

Teng Gui

Chinese, 1900–1980

Specializing in finger painting, Teng Baiye, as he was known, applied ink and water to paper with his fingertips and hand rather than with a brush, using his fingernails for finer lines. (Fingernails had to be grown long for them to be effective instruments.) This example must have dazzled his audience with its spontaneous dance performed with the hand. The subject is likely an homage to Gao Qipei (1660–1734), who painted eagles on pine branches and was the original 18th-century pioneer of finger painting in China. As a young artist studying at the University of Washington, Teng gave painter Mark Tobey (1903–1985) calligraphy lessons, which transformed the way Tobey conceived of depicting the world.
Ink and color on paper
20 7/8 x 15 1/8 in. (53.02 x 38.42 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Martha J. Van Houten
Provenance: Martha J. Van Houten
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Now on view at the Asian Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical, June 19 - Sept. 7, 2014. Text by Patricia Junker. No cat. no., p. 35, reproduced p. 36, fig. 10.
Published ReferencesBalken, Debra Bricker. Mark Tobey: Threading Light. New York: Skira Rizzoli in association with the Addison Gallery of American Art, 2017; p. 54, reproduced fig. 13.

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