Image: 10 9/16 x 42 5/16 in. (26.8 x 107.5 cm)
Overall with mounting: 10 15/16 x 25 ft. 7 11/16 in. (27.8 x 781.5 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 213
This spare, enigmatic scene represents a revolutionary redirection in Chinese painting. Zhao Mengfu reduces his "painted" landscape to a set of calligraphic brush conventions, with the rocks executed in "flying-white" cursive and the pines outlined in unmodulated seal script. He thus rejects illusionistic representation and relies instead on expressive brush lines to imbue his imagery with personal meaning.
Zhao underscores his commitment to this new approach by adding a title to the right of his pines and writing a long inscription on top of the distant mountains at the left side of the composition, making it clear that his painting is not merely about landscape scenery.
Despite his adherence to this new style, Zhao chooses a traditionally significant subject. In Chinese art, pine trees have long been emblems of survival. By representing them here, Zhao may be referring to his own political survival under the Mongol occupation, as well as to the endurance of Chinese culture under foreign rule.
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signature
1. 2 columns in semi-cursive script, undated:
Zi’ang [Zhao Mengfu] playfully painted this Twin Pines, Level Distance.
2. 6 columns in semi-cursive script, undated:
Ever since my youth, after practicing calligraphy, I have toyed with some small paintings, but landscape is one subject that I have not been able to master. This is because I have not managed to see even one or two masterpieces by Wang Wei (701–761), the senior and junior general Li [i.e. Li Sixun (active 705–720) and Li Zhaodao (active mid-8th c.)], and Zheng Qian (active mid-8th c.) of the Tang period. As for works of the Five Dynasties masters, such as Jing Hao (active ca. 870–930), Guan Tong (active ca. 907–923), Dong Yuan (active 930s–960s), and Fan Kuan (ca. 960–ca. 1030), who succeeded one another [as leading masters], the “brush idea” [biyi] of all of them is absolutely different from the style of recent paintings. As for my own work, I dare not compare it with those of the ancient masters, but when I look at what recent painters have done, I daresay mine is a bit different. Since [Dong] Yeyun asked for a painting, I wrote this at the end, Mengfu.
Zhao shi Zi’ang 趙氏子昂 Zhao Mengfu yin (partial) 趙孟頫印 [殘]
1. Yang Zai 楊載 (1271–1323), 9 columns in standard script, undated:
As the tiny boat tries to advance upriver, Mighty mountain trees are suddenly swept into tumult. Swiftly heavy wind and rain pour through the night, Clapping waves against the sky – making the oars hard to control! My native home is a hut beside the great river, But for many years now I have lived away in the capital. Today it is as if a fishing pole had come into my hands, As I enjoy perusing this painting. Venerable Songxue [Zhao Mengfu] painted this landscape handscroll for Penal Associate Mr. Dong Yeyun. Composed by Yang Zai of Pucheng [in Fujian]. [Seals]: Zai, Zhonghong fu yin, Pucheng Yang shi
2. Tong Xuan 童軒 (1425–1498), 14 columns in semi-cursive script, undated:
The Twin Pines, Pure and Distant scroll, painted and inscribed with a colophon by the respectable Zhao Wenmin [Zhao Mengfu] of Wuxing [in Zhekiang], has been acquired by Academician Suxuan [Qian Ning, died ca. 1522], who appreciates it profoundly. Suxuan’s character and family background compare closely with Wenmin’s, so, respecting the man, he loves his painting. In the precious Yuan dynasty, Wenmin attained the position of Recipient of Edicts in the Hanlin Academy through his literary accomplishment. At the time, scholars and officials admired his superiority in a dozen things; his talents were certainly not limited to painting and calligraphy. However, as a descendant of the imperial family of the past Song dynasty, he served the Yuan ruler. I suspect that his fellow scholar-officials’ opinions of him resonated with the message of the poem “Reaching Old Age with the Husband” in the Odes of Yong. I wonder how Ban Gu (32–92) and Sima Qian (ca. 145–ca. 86 B.C.) would think of him. Inscribed by Tong Xuan of Poyang [in Jiangxi], Assistant Surveillance Commissioner of Yunnan. [Seals]: Shi’ang, Jinmen guli, Qingfeng Ting
Tan Jing 譚敬 (1911–1991) Tan shi Ou Zhai shuhua zhi zhang 譚氏區齋書畫之章 He An fu 和庵父 Tan Jing siyin 譚敬私印 Ou Zhai zhencang 區齋珍藏 Yue ren Tan Jing yin 粵人譚敬印 He An jianding zhenji 和庵鑑定真跡
Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003) Wang Jiqian shi shending zhenji 王季遷氏審定真跡 Jiqian xinshang 季遷心賞 Zhenze Wang shi Baowu Tang tushu ji 震澤王氏寶武堂圖書記 Wang Jiqian haiwai suojian mingji 王季遷海外所見名跡 Ceng gui Zhuli Guan 曾歸竹里館
Unidentified Liang Yong zhi yin 梁雝之印 Quanwu suqi 全無俗氣 Guanmian peiyu 冠冕珮玉 Chang yi zisun長宜子孫 Qingbai zhenwan 清白珍玩 Chaofan juesu 超凡絕俗 Bu guoyan yin 誧過眼印 Zisun shi bao 子孫世保
 Translation from Shen C. Y. Fu et al., Traces of the Brush: Studies in Chinese Calligraphy. Exhibition catalogue. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977, cat. no. 13, p. 250. Modified.  Translation from Richard M. Barnhart, Along the Border of Heaven: Song and Yuan Paintings from the C. C. Wang Family Collection. Exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983, p. 120.  Translation by Maxwell K. Hearn.
Kuai Shoushu 蒯壽樞 ; Tan Jing 譚敬 ; C. C. Wang Family New York (by 1949–1973: sold to MMA)