Red Cliff in Zhao Bosu's Style

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Red Cliff in Zhao Bosu's Style (倣趙伯驌後赤壁圖)

Wen Zhengming (文徵明, 1470-1559), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 31.5 x 541.6 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       Wen Zhengming was the most influential painter of the Wu School during the 16th century. This scroll is based on Su Shi's "Latter Ode on the Red Cliff (後赤壁賦)", and is divided into eight sections, depicting Su Shi and his two friends returning to the Red Cliff with wine and fish. The fundamental color of the entire scroll is light green, and although it is said to be an imitation of Zhao Bosu (趙伯驌)'s style, the lines and strokes under the paint are visible. Such transparent and layered style appears to be closer to the light green traditions of the literati Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫, 1254–1322) during the Yuan dynasty. The visitors themselves are depicted in simplistic lines, while the mountains and rocks are stacked closely and variable, demonstrating the leisurely spirit of the literati in the face of such wondrous scenery. The year annotated on the work is the 27th year of Jiajing reign (1548), and Wen Zhengming was by then 79 years of age. This is clearly one of his later works. The back of the scroll contained an annotation by Wen's son, Wen Jia (文嘉, 1501-1583), describing the origins of this painting.

Wen Zhengming: Red Cliff in Zhao Boju's Style