國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum (New window)

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:::Title: A Garden of Painting

Bian Wenjin was a representative bird-and-flower painter of the early Ming dynasty court who followed in the style of the Northern Song painting academy and also displayed something different as well.

Generally speaking, the front and back layers of the composition were emphasized in the Northern Song to express a sense of space. Bian Wenjin's arrangement, however, used the method of overlapping layers going from the bottom up.

As for brush and ink, very delicate colors are employed in the Northern Song to create a warm, subdued quality. Bian Wenjin's coloring, on the other hand, tends to be more appealingly bright. Northern Song brushwork is fine and precise without losing a sense of liveliness, the methods conforming to the nature of the subject being depicted. Bian's work, however, reveals repetitive brushwork to which is added a looser manner associated with the Southern Song court painters Ma Yuan (fl. 1190-1224) and Xia Gui (fl. 1195-1264).

Here Bian Wenjin's painting is compared to reproductions of works from the Northern and Southern Song in the National Palace Museum collection. In doing so, it will hopefully clarify their similarities and differences, thereby demonstrating the period style of the Ming dynasty.

''Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds,'' anonymous, Song dynasty (New window)''Three Friends and a Hundred Birds,'' Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty (New window)
"Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds," anonymous, Song dynasty
"Three Friends and a Hundred Birds," Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty

"Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds," reveals an arrangement of front and back layers for an extension of depth into space. In contrast, "Three Friends and a Hundred Birds," features overlapping layers that start from the bottom up. Thus, does each has its own distinctive quality?

''Bamboo and Shrike'' (detail), Li Anzhong, Song dynasty (New window)''Three Friends and a Hundred Birds'' (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty (New window)''Magpies and Hare'' (detail), Cui Bo, Song dynasty(New window)

"Bamboo and Shrike" (detail), Li Anzhong, Song dynasty

"Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty

"Magpies and Hare" (detail), Cui Bo, Song dynasty

Compared to the warm and subdued coloring in "Bamboo and Shrike," the colors in "Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" are more brilliant. In addition, the magpie is found in both "Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" and "Magpies and Hare," offering an interesting comparison as well!

''Peach Blossoms'' (detail), anonymous, Song dynasty (New window)''Three Friends and a Hundred Birds'' (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty (New window)

"Peach Blossoms," (detail), anonymous, Song dynasty

"Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty

The fine and precise brushwork in "Peach Blossoms" flows with the forms being represented, such as the blossoms, or twists and falters, such as in the branches. Appearing in "Three Friends and a Hundred Birds," however, is repetitive brushwork, such as the lines for the branches and bamboo leaves, thereby expressing the artist's greater interest in brush movement.

''Three Friends and a Hundred Birds'' (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty (New window)''Egrets on a Snowy Bank'' (detail), Ma Yuan, Song dynasty (New window)

"Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" (detail), Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty

"Egrets on a Snowy
Bank," (detail), Ma Yuan, Song dynasty

''Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains'' (detail), Xia Gui, Song dynasty (New window)

"Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains" (detail), Xia Gui, Song dynasty

The lines used to depict the branches and rocks in "Three Friends and a Hundred Birds" are similar to those in "Egrets on a Snowy Bank" and "Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains." To the pure fine-line brushwork has been added a looser manner that is not too obtrusive, which is also an original approach.