Birds have been an intimate part of people’s lives throughout history. Whether found in mountain forests or remote wetlands, encountered on walks in urban parks or along the road, or even seen around the home, birds appear almost everywhere we look. For this and other reasons, an appreciation of our feathered friends naturally became a popular leisure activity among many people.
In ancient times, painters frequently referred to birds by one of their most distinctive features--feathers. The National Palace Museum, as it turns out, has more than two thousand paintings in its collection on the subject of birds done in various styles and formats. In the past, the Museum presented several special exhibitions focusing on birds, including "Song Dynasty Bird-and-Flower Album Leaves" from 1984, "A Treasured Aviary: Birds in Chinese Paintings Through the Ages" of 2001, and “The Sound of Many Birds, the Moving Nature of Each: Bian Wenjin's 'Three Friends and a Hundred Birds'" from 2010. As seen in those and the present display, many famous painters through the ages, such as Huang Quan (fl. 903-965), Xu Chongsi (10th c.), the monk Huichong (ca. 965-1017), Cui Bai (11th c.), Cui Que (11th c.), Li Anzhong (fl. 1119-1162), Li Di (12-13th c.), Ma Lin (ca. 1180-after 1256), and Wu Bing (12th c.), specialized in depicting birds and left behind masterpieces capturing the spirit and appearance of these marvelous animals, serving as most fitting reminders of their marvelous variety.
This special exhibition presents a selection of 31 works/sets of birds in Galleries 202 and 212. The works, which date from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties up to modern times, can be divided into the two categories of "Ripe Fruit Beckon Birds" and "Birds Sing of Floral Fragrance." Also on display with the artworks are photographs of the birds depicted therein, allowing audiences to closely compare images of the brush and camera to see how artists over the centuries observed the world of birds with great detail. In their quest to overcome the constraints of formal likeness, artists used brush and ink to engage in a dialogue with their myriad surroundings to express the emotions and creativity of heart and mind. In this age when conservation is increasingly important, we encourage all to come to the National Palace Museum at springtime and appreciate paintings and birds to experience a beautiful melody of birds, flowers, and fruit in harmony.
Publication: Exhibition catalogue Of a Feather Flocking Together: Birds, Flowers, and Fruit in Melodic Harmony