Focusing on a narrow band of the natural world, Birds in a Lotus Pond, datable stylistically to about 1690, shows the artist boldly experimenting with the highly absorbent medium of satin to create a daring composition of saturated ink lines and dots starkly set against a blank background. The scroll opens with the daringly abstract form of a torn lotus leaf that is precariously suspended from its bent stalk, which extends leftward above a cluster of half-hidden blossoms. The black leaf stands in contrast to a stark white boulder, defined only by its ink outline. Two fluffy chicks perch atop this boulder, apparently oblivious to their surroundings. On the shore beyond crouch two mynahs, their glances directed upward toward a final lotus leaf that looms above them. Balanced on the back of the second mynah is another tiny chick, its beak open in song or hunger.
The birds appear to personify the interaction of dark and light that animates the entire composition; the human-like expressions with which Bada has imbued them adds an unsettling quality to the already enigmatic composition.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (2 columns in semi-cursive script)
Engagements in a mountain dwelling. Bada Shanren
Sheshi 涉事 Bada Shanren 八大山人 Bada Shanren 八大山人
Zhang Daqian 張大千 (1899–1983), 1 column in seal script, undated: Birds in a Lotus Pond painted by Bada Shanren, a treasure in the Dafeng Tang Hall. 八大山人 《蓮塘戲禽圖》，大風堂供養
Zhang Daqian 張大千 (1899–1983) Bieshi rongyi 別時容易 Qiu tu bao gurou qing 球圖寶骨肉情 Dafeng Tang Jianjiang Kuncan Xuege Kugua moyuan 大風堂漸江髡殘雪箇苦瓜墨緣 Nan bei dong xi zhiyou xiangsui wu bieli 南北東西只有相隨無別離
Gu Luofu 顧洛阜 (John M. Crawford, Jr., 1913–1988) Hanguang Ge zhu Gu Luofu jiancang Zhongguo gudai shuhua zhi zhang 漢光閣主顧洛阜鑑藏中國古代書畫之章 Gu Luofu 顧洛阜 Hanguang Ge 漢光閣
Unidentified Wuyun shoucang 務耘收藏
London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Collection of John M. Crawford, Jr.," June 17, 1965–August 1, 1965.
Providence. Bell Gallery, List Art Center. "The Individualists: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy of the 17th Century from the Collection of John M. Crawford, Jr.," April 26, 1980–May 18, 1980.
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. "The Work of Zhu Da," August 22, 1990–October 28, 1990.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "The Work of Zhu Da," January 18, 1991–March 24, 1991.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan I," March 1, 2003–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.