The Making of a National Treasure IV

Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy from the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Introduction

This exhibition features a selection of National Treasures from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including representative examples by Bian Wenjin (ca. 1356-1428), Dai Jin (1388-1462), Shang Xi (15th c.), Tang Yin (1470-1524), and Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552) of the Ming dynasty; and Wang Hui (1632-1717) and Yun Shouping (1633-1690) of the Qing dynasty.

The Three Friends and a Hundred Birds (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Bian Wenjin (ca. 1356-1428)National Palace Museum

The “Three Friends” and a Hundred Birds

Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure.      

The Three Friends and a Hundred Birds (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Bian Wenjin (ca. 1356-1428)National Palace Museum

Bian Wenjin was an important bird-and-flower academic painter during the early Ming dynasty active at the Yongle (1402-1424) and Xuande (1426-1435) courts. His style followed the tradition of fine brushwork and strong colors tracing back to the Northern Song school of Huang Quan but also integrating the Southern Song Painting Academy manner.
       

The artist’s inscription on this painting reads, “In the seventh month, autumn, of ‘guisi’ in the Yongle reign (1413), Bian Jingzhao (Wenjin) of Longxi painted ‘Three Friends’ and a Hundred Birds at the official’s residence in Chang’an.”

In ancient times, people referred to the capital as “Chang’an,” meaning that this painting was done in Nanjing, the capital at the time, and perhaps on imperial order. 

The pine, bamboo, and plum tree form the main framework of the composition along with the slope. Interspersed among them are nearly a hundred birds, creating a strongly decorative effect. 

The outlines of the slope and plum tree as well as the brushwork for the texturing are slightly relaxed, but the painting as a whole generally still falls within the tradition of outlines filled with ink and colors. The style, opulent yet refined, represents a classic example of court taste.

Crossing a Bridge over a Stream (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Dai Jin (1388-1462)National Palace Museum

Crossing a Bridge over a Stream

Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure.      

Crossing a Bridge over a Stream (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Dai Jin (1388-1462)National Palace Museum

Dai Jin, a native of Qiantang in Zhejiang, was the founder of the “Zhe School” of landscape painting in the Ming dynasty. Upheld by later generations as its standard bearer, his style became a model and he venerated as the Zhe School patriarch.

The foreground of this painting depicts a roaring torrent with rocks dispersed therein and a cliff in the background. 

A mountain rises behind as the area to the right opens to reveal a wide expanse of water with sails in the far distance. Fishermen go about their livelihood in an ideal scene of peace and leisure. The diagonal composition derives from the landscape arrangement developed in the Southern Song Painting Academy. 

The lines and “moss dots” of the trees, however, are done with hoary and solid brushwork that reflects the literati manner associated with such Yuan dynasty artists as Wu Zhen (1280-1354) and Sheng Mao. The outlines of the trees and rocks feature great speed and bravura. 

The painting as a whole combines classical spiritedness with quick untrammeledness, being a typical example of Dai Jin’s style integrating the virtues of various artists to which he added his own.

Four Immortals Paying Homage to Longevity (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Shang Xi (15th c.)National Palace Museum

Four Immortals Paying Homage to Longevity

Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as an Important Historic Artifact.      

Four Immortals Paying Homage to Longevity (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Shang Xi (15th c.)National Palace Museum

Shang Xi was a Ming dynasty court painter who served during the Xuande reign (1426-1435). Awarded the honorary rank of Commander of the Imperial Bodyguard, he excelled at painting figural and narrative subjects.  

This hanging scroll is a type of auspicious subject to bless for long life, a traditional theme for birthdays. It depicts four immortals of Buddhist and Daoist origin (Li Tieguai, Liu Haichan, Hanshan, and Shide) together in the same work standing on waves. The four look up at the “Old Immortal of the South Pole,” the God of Longevity, approaching on the back of a crane in the upper center.

The use of brush and ink throughout the scroll is precise and delicate, the expressions of the figures harmonious and animated as if in conversation. The robe ends flutter in the wind, the brush lines angular and forcefully rendered. The waves, on the other hand, are outlined with trembling strokes that increase the magnitude of the subject.

Having much of the decorative manner of Ming academic painting, the scroll also reveals a trend towards more popular themes in court art at the time. 

Fishing in Reclusion Among Mountains and Streams (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Tang YinNational Palace Museum

Fishing in Reclusion among Mountains and Rivers

Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in January 2015 as a National Treasure.        

Fishing in Reclusion Among Mountains and Streams (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Tang YinNational Palace Museum

Tang Yin (style name Bohu), a native of Suzhou in Jiangsu, was an unbridled character who led an unconventional life. Though placing first in the Nanjing civil service examinations during the Hongzhi reign (1488-1505), he was implicated in a scandal at the national examinations that ruined his chances for officialdom. Turning to the arts, including painting, he far exceeded his teacher, Zhou Chen (1460-1535), and became known as one of the Four Ming Masters.
      

This handscroll follows the Yuan cultural trend of literati painting on the subject of fishing in reclusion. It depicts pines with red maple and yellowing leaves set against a stream roaring from a waterfall. Thatched cottage and waterside pavilion buildings appear here and there among the banks and rocks.

Figures grasp a knee in conversation, walk with a staff, gaze at fishing from a railing, or play a flute with feet dangling in the water. 

The texturing of the rocks features a combination of “hemp-fiber” and slanted brushwork in light and dark ink tones to create “axe-cut” strokes. Light ink was also added to the cyanine blue washes to create a volumetric effect of light and dark. 

The use of brush and ink throughout is marvelous, the colors beautiful, making this a classic example most representative of Tang Yin’s achievement in the art of painting.

Waiting for the Ferry on an Autumn River (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552)National Palace Museum

Waiting for the Ferry on an Autumn River

Verified and declared by the Ministry of Culture in May 2015 as a National Treasure.      

Waiting for the Ferry on an Autumn River (AD 1368-AD 1644) by Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552)National Palace Museum

Qiu Ying (style name Shifu, sobriquet Shizhou) resided in Suzhou. He studied painting under Zhou Chen (1460-1535) and came to excel at landscape and figural subjects, becoming known along with Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, and Tang Yin as one of the Four Ming Masters.

This painting is done on two bolts of silk joined to make an oversized hanging scroll.   

It depicts a figure sitting on a rock as two people have boarded a boat on the other bank. Another person arrives carrying a shoulder load, the boatman raising his hand to beckon him make haste. The figures are all delicately rendered and spirited, the coloring beautiful but not too strong or dense. 

The brushwork for the mountains is done in outlines with chopping strokes similar to “axe-cut” texturing, and the composition of space forms a zigzag that extends into the distance to express the expansiveness of a water-filled realm. 


This harks back to the tradition of Zhou Chen, who studied the painting style of the Song dynasty, taking the dense landscape and transforming it into openness. 

Although this painting is undated, the artistic achievement is exceptional, suggesting a masterpiece from Qiu Ying’s late years.

 

The Five Purities (AD 1644-AD 1911) by Yun Shouping (1633-1690)National Palace Museum

The Five Purities

Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as an Important Historic Artifact.     

The Five Purities (AD 1644-AD 1911) by Yun Shouping (1633-1690)National Palace Museum

Yun Shouping (sobriquet Nantian), a native of Wujin in Jiangsu, was gifted at poetry and prose, painting, and calligraphy. Especially noted for painting, he became known along with the Four Wangs and Wu Li as one of the Six Early Qing Masters. 

He originally excelled at landscape painting but later felt he could not compete with Wang Hui, one of the Four Wangs specializing in landscapes. He thereafter turned to the bird-and-flower theme, becoming one of the most renowned masters of flower painting in the Qing dynasty.

This painting is a combination of plum blossoms, pine, bamboo, water, and the moon, representing the “Five Purities” symbolizing the pure and uncommon sentiments of a gentleman-scholar. 

The composition is divided into three levels; in the upper one is an old pine that crosses into view with a full moon behind it. 

In the central area are plum branches and bamboo luxuriantly mingling together.

And finally below are rushing waters. 

The brushwork throughout the painting is mellow and peaceful, the ink tones tranquil as well. Together, they convey an incomparably harmonious atmosphere, making this a masterpiece by Yun Shouping in ink flower painting.

Summer Mountains and Misty Rain (AD 1644-AD 1911) by Wang Hui (1632-1717)National Palace Museum

Summer Mountains and Misty Rain

Provisionally classified by the National Palace Museum as a National Treasure.         

Summer Mountains and Misty Rain (AD 1644-AD 1911) by Wang Hui (1632-1717)National Palace Museum

Wang Hui, a native of Changshu in Jiangsu, was one of the “Four Wangs” of the early Qing dynasty. Excelling in painting since childhood, he received instruction from two of the other Four Wangs, Wang Jian (1598-1677) and Wang Shimin (1592-1680), also having the opportunity to view ancient works in the possession of collectors in various areas. 

Copying and imitating these works, he was able to integrate past and present as well as northern and southern styles to develop his own style and become one of the premier painters of the Qing dynasty.

This handscroll depicts distant mountains in light ink with a pathway winding among them, the forests extending from the distance to the foreground. 

Interspersed are waterside pavilion, village, and tower motifs as well as bridge and waterfall elements. The juxtaposition of solid and void in the scenery adds variety to the compositional complexity, and the complementary use of light and wet ink creates a pleasing balance of washes.   

The brushwork throughout the scroll is refined and animated, the concept elegantly refined and marvelously lofty.

It is exactly how Yun Shouping (1633-1690), a contemporary of Wang Hui, wrote in his inscription of praise at the end of this scroll: “Steady and boundless, the spirit soars.” Done at the age of 52, this is a masterpiece representative of Wang Hui’s mature period of painting.

Credits: Story

"The Making of a National Treasure: Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy in the Museum Collection" (October 4 to December 25, 2017) is curated by Chief Curator Fang-Ju Liu and Assistant Curator Ling-Kuang Fang of the Department of Calligraphy and Painting at the National Palace Museum. © 2020 National Palace Museum  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps