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Wen Zhengming


the painting of wen zhengming
The Painting of Wen Zhengming

Wen Zhengming(文徵明,1470-1559) - was the leader in the circle of literature, calligraphy and painting, even the gardening art(he was the designer of the Humble Administrator’s Garden) in Suzhou next to Shen Zhou. He was born in an official family. But he looked a little bit foolish. In his first experience in the imperial examination of Ming Dynasty, he failed for his bad calligraphy. Since then, he made a great effort to improve his calligraphy and reading, and finally became the No.1 calligrapher in Ming Dynasty. At the early period, he shared a similar experience of being an official with others, but he retreated at the age of 54 after recognized the danger of official circle. He returned to Suzhou and indulged himself into the study of calligraphy and painting. The rest of life was smooth, and he also taught some famous students.

He led an elegant life of scholars and engaged in the artistic work. His painting masterpieces expressed the aesthetics of elegance and tranquility. Wen Zhengming had a longer life than Shen Zhou, and the number of his works is also larger than that of Shen Zhou. At his old days, his students and followers were most the regional or nationwide famous people. He learnt the painting from Shen Zhou, but was deeply influenced by painters of Yuan Dynasty, especially Zhao Mengfu(赵孟頫), the greatest calligraphist, painter and Buddhist believer of Yuan Dynasty. Also, his painting was also connected with Huang Gongwang(黄公望), Wang Meng(王蒙) and Ni Zan(倪瓒). The painting of Wen Zhengming is mainly themed with mountains and waters, and the ways can be divided into the delicate way and rough way.

Jiangnan Chun(江南春, the painting of Spring in Jiangnan) was a painting masterpiece created at the age of 78, and this was also his most successful painting. The near sight of the painting is several arbor trees with new sprouts. At the middle sight, there are the colorful peach blossoms and willows. The far sight is the light mountains and the flat but vast lake face. It expresses the landscape of Jiangnan in spring. The whole painting releases the style of Wen Zhengming’s painting. What they paint is the spring scenery of Jiangnan but expresses the sensation of man, and also indirectly shows the life circumstances of scholar-bureaucrats in Jiangnan.

Chunshen Gaoshu Tu(春深高树图, the painting of tall trees in blooming phase of spring) shows the elegant life of scholars and expresses the painter’s spiritual world and ideal life. It also exhibits the strong personality of painter. The masterpiece painted with delicate strikes, which superficially looks a little bit clumsy, and the mild color hints some cold element. It shows that the painters pursued an elegance of tranquility and the sentiment of clumsiness and simplicity. The painters explore d the inherent beauty easily found in daily life.

Zhenshangzhai Tu(真赏斋图, the painting of real-appreciation house), is comprised of two volumes, respectively created at 80 and 88. The fine brushwork was used to paint the study of Hua Xia, who was his friend and a famous collector living in Wuxi, the neighboring city of Suzhou. It is themed with the scene that the hosts together with the guests appreciated the antiques and works of calligraphy and painting, and the surrounding landscapes were also impressive depicted. At the rear part, there is a classic calligraphy record written by the regular script.

Gumu Hanquan Tu(古木寒泉图, the painting of ancient trees and cold springs) was created at the age of 80, the narrow painting highly impressed by the towering pine trees and cypress, which partially shelter the far flying waterfalls. The falling waters collected as the running spring. The strikes used belonged to the rough styles, and it is a unique show of the other side of Wen Zhengming’s painting.

Xiangjun Xiangfuren Tu(湘君湘夫人图, the painting of lord xiang and madam Xiang) was the representative figure painting of Wen Zhengming, and it was created at the age of 46. The painter used the quite extraordinary strikes to create the images of two gods. The figures were from the classic literature masterpiece named Li Sao(离骚, the expression of sorrow) created by Qu Yuan(屈原) in the period the warring states. Taking two great figures of literature as the theme shows the high appreciation and taste of painter. And it is surely the embodiment of the elite culture in Jiangnan region and the tradition of people admiring the elegance and gentleman’s life in Jiangnan.

By the way, Wen Zhengming was also good at painting the flowers like the orchid and bamboo. He took the wind scene to paint the orchid and the rain scene to paint the bamboo. It expresses the high value of orchid painted in the heavy ink as the cultural symbol of scholars , and people named the orchid he painted as Wen Lan(文兰, two meanings included- the orchid painted by Wen Zhengming, and the orchid painted expresses the internal mind of scholars)


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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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