Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs (山鷓棘雀圖)
Huang Jucai (黃居寀, 933-?), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 97 x 53.6 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
A succession of famous bird-and-flower painters appeared starting in the Five Dynasties period. Huang Quan (黃筌) of Sichuan inherited from styles of the Tang dynasty and selected from the virtues among them. His son Huang Jucai served under the Song and searched on behalf of the emperor for famous paintings, which is why the Huang manner came to predominate in the early Northern Song. "Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs" cleverly incorporates the poses of birds into a scene from nature to create an appropriate sense of movement. The patterned decorative effect of the painting preserves the tradition of archaic simplicity and splendor of bird-and-flower painting from the Tang dynasty. The more archaic techniques employed here include rubbing with a slanted brush laden with scorched ink for modeling the rock surfaces, ocher with ink yielding the solidity of thorny branches, and the technique of cinnabar washes for rendering the pointed fern-leaf hedge bamboo and beak and claws of the magpie. Although the sparrows on the thorny branches appear in various forms of complexity, they have not been abbreviated, which was one of the painting notions in the pursuit of realism in this early period.