Li Fangying was born into a family of powerful officials. After stints at several counties as Chief Executive, he left officialdom and moved to Yangzhou, where he lived on his paintings, notably his plum paintings.
He was one of the “Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou”. This painting is a classic of painting combined with calligraphy. In a pre-designed spatial organization, the pictorial and the calligraphic parts are optimally distributed. The posture of the plum tree, the varying ink tones, the shapes and sizes of the ideographs form a delicate balance that does not brook the slightest alteration. With the artist longing to express a wealth of feeling through the painting, and a relative scarcity of ink and brush motifs that serve the purpose, the marriage of the pictorial and calligraphic idioms becomes an effective way to give a unique personality to the work.
This combination requires the artist to possess literary as well as calligraphic expertise. The new genre of sholar-painting and the new group of literati-painters have arisen in response to this new requirement.