Squirrel in a Peach Tree (桃枝松鼠)
Qian Xuan (錢選, ca.1235-1305), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 26.3 x 44.3 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
The focus of this painting is on the squirrel stealthily making its way along the branch of a peach tree towards the two fruits it has eyed. The elements are balanced in the horizontal composition here. The simplified yet elegant form of the squirrel has been rendered in delicate brushstrokes combined with washes for a soft and light feeling. The dark ink of the feet and eyes emphasize the position and determination of the squirrel. The simple composition, pure coloring, and fine brushwork all follow in the tradition of Song dynasty bird-and-flower painting but combined with the lyrical touch of a scholar painter. For the leaves, the artist used outlines in mature brushwork with washes of color added. The light and elegant coloring reflects the personal touch of Qian Xuan, one of the forerunners of scholar art in the Yuan dynasty.