Bamboo in Ink

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Bamboo in Ink (墨竹)

Wen Tong (文同, 1018-1079), Song Dynasty (960-1279)

Hanging scroll, ink on silk, 131.6 x 105.4 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       Wen Tong, style name Yuke (與可), was a native of Zitong (梓潼) in Sichuan. He excelled at poetry and prose while being gifted at calligraphy and painting. He particularly specialized in bamboo painted in monochrome ink. A scholar of wide learning, he founded the “Huzhou School (湖州派)” and had a great influence on later generations of painting bamboo using only ink. This monochrome ink painting depicts bamboo hanging from a cliff and luxuriantly filled with leaves. The bamboo stalk was rendered with rounded brushwork using a centered tip. The knots of the stalk were done with hooked brushwork and an area left blank that hooks together the upper and lower segments. The light and dark ink of the leaves are also painted in a complementary manner. This painting appears at first glance to be solemn and straightforward, but closer observation reveals many places of casual and dashing brushwork that bring the subject and work to life. Wen Tong pioneered the technique of using monochrome ink for depicting bamboo. This painting is not only a rare original of his surviving work, it is also one of the representative examples of Northern Song literati ink painting.

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Wen Tong: Bamboo in Ink