Three Friends of Winter (歲寒三友)
Zhao Mengjian (趙孟堅, ca.1199-1264), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Album leaf, ink on paper, 32.2 x 53.4 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
Zhao Mengjian, descendant of the Song imperial house, was gifted at poetry and calligraphy and excelled at painting plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, stones, and narcissi and slopes in monochrome ink outlines (白描, baimiao). In this painting, the 6th leaf from the “Essence of Ink (墨林拔萃)” album, the “broken branch (折枝)” manner was used for pine, bamboo, and plum (the Three Friends) in a floral arrangement combined within a refined and tranquil composition. The straight and solid plum branch bears blossoms done in circular petals of light ink with highlights of dark ink. The bamboo leaves appear thin at the tip as if pruned, and the pine needles crisscross for variety within uniformity. All done in ink, the powerful brushwork is also elegant and pleasing.