Qi Baishi, the Chinese artist who painted Seven Men in Dragon Mountain, was born in 1864 and died in 1957. His reputation acknowledges a commitment painting so focused that he was unencumbered by the momentous political affairs during the time he lived–such as the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the creation of the Republic of China, and Two World Wars.
The seven men of the title are said to be the seven poets who were part of the poetry group established by Wang Zhong Yan, who was a poet and a friend of Qi Baishi.
The painter expressed his central aesthetic idea in the following words:
The excellence of a painting lies in its being alike, yet unlike. Too much likeness flatters the vulgar taste; too much unlikeness deceives the world.
And one can see in the painting the likenesses of fir trees and the strangeness of the mountains, which retreat like growing gray clouds of potatoes or like steel coils unraveling as they stand further away.