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Painting

Plum Blossoms and Wild Bird
Ch'en Hung-shou (1599-1652), Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 124.3 x 49.6 cm

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Ch'en Hung-shou (style name Chang-hou; self-sobriquet Lao-lien), a native of Chu-chi in Chekiang, spanned the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties. After the fall of the Ming, he took the sobriquets Hui-ch'ih, Wu-ch'ih, Yün-men seng, excelling in painting and calligraphy. In the former, he specialized in figures, but he was also gifted at other subjects, including birds-and-flowers, grasses-and-insects, and landscapes. In figure painting, he often used solid forms and taught drapery lines, revealing the features of Li Kung-lin's (1049-1106) and Chao Meng-fu's (1254-1322) styles. However, his manner was often exaggerated, and he became known as one of the "transformation" artists of the late Ming. He also did illustrations for woodblock printing, making a major contribution to the art of woodblock illustration in the late Ming.

A gnarled plum tree, its angular branches covered with blossoms and buds, spirals around a large ornamental Lake T'ai rock, providing a fitting perch for a wild bird. This unusual bird is perhaps more reflective of the artist's own peculiar style than that found in nature. Strong, calligraphic strokes define the trunk of the tree, and the full, rounded shapes of the blossoms were done first with delicate yet firm lines of ink and then filled with delicate colors. The details of the blossoms were delineated with white to give them a sense of fullness and volume. The texture strokes of the rocks are also animated, making this work seem both reserved and animated.
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