Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on gold-flecked paper
7 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. (19.1 x 54.6 cm)
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Not on view
The preeminent literati artist of his day, Zhao Zhiqian applied his skills as a calligrapher and seal carver to the art of painting. His blending of contrasting compositional and graphic effects—positive forms and negative spaces, dry and wet ink, round and angular movements, heavy and light brushwork—derive from his calligraphic training; for this reason, Zhao's painting style, often referred to as "epigraphic," inaugurated a new direction for traditional Chinese artists.
The relationship of figure to ground, which is at the heart of seal carving, is seen here in Zhao's bold juxtaposition of the solidly colored peach blossoms and the monochrome peony, which are executed in the two traditional modes of flower painting: the "boneless" method of drawing in color without ink contours and the monochrome outline method. The pinwheel effect of Zhao's swirling cluster of blossoms is held in check by his compact inscription, which counterbalances the expansive leftward thrust of the peony. Zhao states that he is following the brush style of Wang Wu (1632–1690), but his mix of lush imagery and calligraphic techniques is quintessentially nineteenth century.
Signature: Weishu Zhao Zhiqian Undated
Artist's seal: Authentic seal of Zhiqian (square, white characters)
Inscription: Using the method of Wang Wangan (Wang Su, 1632–1690]; Dedicated to Yangxin.
Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (two)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Painting: Selections from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," February 2, 1988–September 25, 1988.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Between Two Cultures: A Selection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," January 30, 2001–August 19, 2001.