Three Friends of Winter
Chao Meng-chien (1199-ca. 1264), Sung dynasty
Album leaf, ink on paper, 32.2 x 53.4 cm
Chao Meng-chien, a descendant of the Sung dynasty imperial house, was gifted at poetry and calligraphy. He also excelled at painting plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, stones, and narcissi and slopes in monochrome ink outlines using the ?pai-miao??method.
In this, the sixth leaf from the ?Essence of Ink??album, Chao used the ?broken branch??still-life method of depicting pine, bamboo, and plum (the Three Friends) in a floral arrangement. Showing only a few twigs, they have been combined together to create a refined and tranquil composition. The straight and solid plum branch bears blossoms done in circular petals of light ink which were then dabbed with dark ink for highlights. The bamboo leaves appear thinned at the tip as if they have been pruned, and the pine needles crisscross for variety within their uniform manner. With all the motifs done in ink, the powerful brushwork here is also elegant and pleasing to the eye