Bamboo, Rocks, and Lonely Orchids (竹石幽蘭圖)
Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫, 1254-1322), Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Handscroll, ink on paper, 50.5 x 144.1 cm, Cleveland Museum of Art
Zhao Mengfu, a great scholar-painter, wrote this famous and much admired verse:
Rocks must be painted in the flying-white mode, trees done by brush strokes as in archaic writing.
To paint bamboo, one must harbour a full range of brushwork.
To those who can understand this,
The art of painting and calligraphy are but one and the same.
In this verse, flying-white refers to a brushstroke that allows streaks of white paper to be seen amid the dark ink. Archaic writing, known as the Zhuan script, involves brushwork that is curvilinear. In this handscroll, Zhao Mengfu, considered the supreme master of the Yuan dynasty, depicted the rocks and trees in ways that not only evoke the natural images, but also bring the art of calligraphy into the very core of painting.