Wen Zhengming (文徵明, 文征明, 1470–1559) was a leading Ming Dynasty painter, calligrapher, and scholar. He is regarded as one of the painting elite - “the Four Masters of Ming” (明四家), which also includes Shen Zhou (沈周,1427-1509), Tang Yin (唐寅, 1470-1523) and Qiu Ying (仇英, ca.1495-1552). Together with his contemporaries Tang Yin, Zhu Yunming (祝允明, 1460-1526), and Xu Zhenqing (徐禎卿, 1479-1511), known as the “Four Literary Masters of the Wuzhong Region (in today's Suzhou)” (吳中四大才子) or “Four Literary Masters of Jiangnan (the region on the south of the Yangtze River)” (江南四大才子).
Born in present-day Suzhou, he claimed to be a descendant of the Song Dynasty prime minister and patriot Wen Tianxiang. Wen’s family was originally from Hengyang, Hunan, where his family had established itself shortly after the 10th century. Not until the time of Wen's great-grandfather, Wen Hui, a military officer, did the family move to the Suzhou area.
Wen often chose painting subjects of great simplicity, like a single tree or rock. His work often brings about a feeling of strength through isolation, which often reflected his discontent with official life. Many of his works also celebrate the contexts of elite social life for which they were created. He collaborated in the design of the Humble Administrator's Garden (拙政園), generally considered one of China's four greatest gardens.
Masterpieces by Wen Zhengming (view the entire calligraphy gallery)