Liu Kuan-tao (date of birth is unknown), probably lived from 1264 to 1294, a native of Hebei province of modern China, was a famous court painter in the early years of the reign of the Mongol Yuan dynasty. In 1279, he was appointed to the post of superintendent of the imperial wardrobe of the emperor. In his paintings in the genre of "religious attributes", "figures of people and animals" he used mainly manner of painting adherent to preceding Jin and Tang dynasties; in genres of painting landscapes he copied realistic styles of Li Cheng and Guo Xi. In the genre of bamboo, flowers, birds and plants master Liu Kuan-tao borrowed achievements of previous generations of artists, having become the greatest painter of his time.
This painting, “Kublai Khan Hunting” was completed by the painter in 1280. It is a large canvas, which depicts the vast northern steppes and deserts, completed in green colors of grass and yellow colors of sand. The picture was drawn in ink and paints on silk. Size of the canvas is 182.9x104.1 cm. The painting is permanently demonstrated in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.
There is a long chain of riders hurrying to the horizon. These hunters hold bows and arrows in their hands; some of them have falcons and who passionately hunt steppe animals and game birds. Among the riders, there is a figure with white luxury robes on a black horse surrounded with countless servants, who is probably the founder of the Yuan Dynasty – the Great Kublai Khan (ruled in 1264-1294), next to whom there are his beautiful wife and eight bodyguards on either side. There is also one black slave, who is probably Central Asia. On the horizon we may distinguish a caravan of camels.
The figures of people and animals in the painting, whose clothes and headgear are beautiful and completed in detail, are completed in an expressive dynamic manner. The appearance of the Emperor has a portrait which resembles Kublai, which is the reason of thinking that mainly the Great Kublai Khan is depicted on the picture. This painting is completed in a realistic manner. Although to date, there is very little number of works by Liu Kuan-tao, this work that is signed and dated by the author, can fully testify to the great skill of this outstanding artist who achieved much success in depicting realism and spirituality in art.
“Kublai Khan Hunting” is a very interesting painting and is incredibly valuable for its detail and level of detail. Unique clothing items: folding sleeves, hats and bindings on riders` boots are a great material for further study of the steppe suit and life of Chinese nomads living in steppes.
Liu Kuan-tao. “Kublai Khan Hunting” [Painting]. National Palace Museum. N.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. http://www.npm.gov.tw/english/exhbition/e-ase1010/e02.htm.