Image: 44 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (113 x 50.2 cm)
Overall with colophons: 68 x 19 3/4 in. (172.7 x 50.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 106 1/8 x 25 1/4 in. (269.6 x 64.1 cm)
Overall with knobs: 106 1/8 x 29 1/2 in. (269.6 x 74.9 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1973
Not on view
An ambitious scholar, Wang Mian was determined to fulfill his responsibilities as a man of talent despite the frustrations and dangers of life under Mongol rule. He studied philosophy, military tactics and politics. He wrote poems and government treatises, drew up battle plans and painted unforgettable images of the flowering plum that became the principal model for plum painters of Ming and Qing times.
In this painting, Wang Main brought into balance the expressive and representational elements of his subject, for in depicting silken blossoms and rough branches, he employed both the delicately descriptive techniques of his academic predecessors and the bold calligraphic brushwork of his literati contemporaries.
The flowering plum (Prunus mume, or Japanese apricot) became an object of intense enthusiasm during the Southern Song dynasty and has remained one of China's favorite motifs. Blooming before all other trees, it was welcomed as the harbinger of spring. By Wang Mian's time, under the impact of the barbarian Mongol rule, the image of the flowering plum blossoming in the withered winter landscape, had become a powerful symbol of purity and endurance in adversity.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in semi-cursive script)
A wintry plum tree with branches like white jade, A warm breeze scatters the flowers with snowflakes. The Hermit of the Lonely Hill [Lin Bu, 967–1028] has remained true to himself; Now who carries the sound of reedpipe music across the broken bridge? Yuanzhang [Wang Mian]
The plum paintings by the Stone-cooking Mountain Peasant [Wang Mian] are in no way inferior to those by Yang Wujiu [Yang Buzhi, 1097–1169]. His brushwork is free with an ancient flair, powerful yet eccentric, which was unique of his time. One can envision his lofty spirit and wild manners while wielding a wooden sword in a tall, brimmed hat and a pair of thick-soled wooden clogs. Unfortunately he was not prolific; very few of his works have survived. I have only seen a long handscroll by him at the Lanyun Ge Studio. In the fifth lunar month of the second year of the Longqing reign era , Daoxing [Gu Dadian]. [Seals]: Dadian, Hengyu
The Stone-cooking Mountain Peasant had an unusual spirit. His plum paintings are therefore dark and subdued with archaic ruggedness. This scroll has an extra flair of nonchalant elegance. It has achieved the full range of what one can do with plum painting. May Mr. Yong treasure it in his collection. Inscribed by Zhang Fengshi on an autumn day in the bingwu year (1966). [Seal]: Zhang Fengshi yin