Image: 36 3/8 x 11 7/8 in. (92.4 x 30.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 93 3/8 x 20 3/8 in. (237.2 x 51.8 cm)
Overall with knobs: 93 3/8 x 22 1/8 in. (237.2 x 56.2 cm)
The Lin Yutang Family Collection, Gift of Richard M. Lai, Jill Lai Miller, and Larry C. Lai, in memory of Taiyi Lin Lai, 2005
Not on view
This painting captures a magpie in midflight; its spreading wings and half-extended feet suggest that it has just taken off or is about to land. The delicate whips of a willow form a minimal backdrop. Their arcing lines imply a breeze behind the bird's forward motion. Although the austere simplicity of this composition is characteristic of the literati tradition of Chinese painting, the rendering of the magpie's plumage is free of the calligraphic brush idioms of traditional scholar-painters. Rather, the bird's naturalism betrays Xu's mastery of Western representational skills.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (1 column in semi-cursive script)
In the renwu year, painted by Beihong
Donghai wangsun 東海王孫
Li Ming 黎明 (Richard M. Lai, 1920–2011) and Lin Taiyi 林太乙 (Taiyi Lin Lai, 1926–2003) Li Lin 黎林
 Documentation from Shi-yee Liu, Straddling East and West: Lin Yutang, A Modern Literatus: The Lin Yutang Family Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 9, p. 55.