Zhang Feng (Chinese, active ca. 1628–1662)

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
dated 1644
Album of twelve paintings; ink and color on paper
Each leaf: 6 1/16 x 9 in. (15.4 x 22.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1987
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Following the fall of Beijing to the bandit-rebel Li Zicheng in April 1644, Nanjing suffered a chaotic year of warfare between a Ming loyalist regime and the attacking Manchu forces. This album was painted in August 1644 as the Ming dynasty was crumbling.

    In creating these idyllic images of the world of the recluse, Zhang Feng turned to the pale dry style of Ni Zan (1306–1374), but the gossamer lightness of Zhang's touch adds a new lyrical charm to Ni's style. Keenly interested in language, Zhang explores the expressive interplay of visual and poetic imagery in fresh and insightful ways: one leaf describes the murmur of pines and the sound of water running over rocks; another evokes the echoes of a stone tossed into a deserted valley; a third features a sunset, a subject rarely depicted by scholar-artists but one that may have held deep symbolic meaning for Zhang. He remained loyal to the Ming dynasty after the Manchu conquest and, refusing to take an official position under the new regime, ended his life in poverty.



    Leaf A (4 columns in standard script):
    This looks somewhat like the entrance to the “Peach Blossom Spring,” but it isn't. Dafeng


    Leaf B (1 column in standard script):
    Imitating Ni [Zan, 1306–1374]


    Leaf C (dated 1644, 6 columns in standard script):
    The worldly red dusts do not rise at my front door.
    Green trees stand just right to conceal the corners of my house,
    Blue mountains nicely fill in the breach atop my garden wall.
    These lines are musical lyrics by a Yuan dynasty master [i.e. Ma Zhiyuan, ca. 1260–1324].
    It seems that I should use the water-and-tree method to paint this well, yet the result is clumsy everywhere—an embarrassing embodiment of Zhang Juqu’s [Zhang Yu, 1283–1350] phrase “beating the side of a drum.” On the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month of the jiashen year [August 8, 1644].


    Leaf D (1 column in standard script):
    Chiming from the cloud, sails in the wind.


    Leaf E (5 columns in standard script):
    The painting does not have a prescribed title. Once there is a title, the place changes. [The subject] seems to be listening to the rushing mountain brook. It is fine if you think [the title is] “Bright moon shines through the pines; clear spring flows across the rocks.” [a couplet from a poem by Wang Wei, 701–761] Mr. Beijin must be thinking that I paint with the method of composing examination papers. Have a laugh! On the last day of the sixth month [August 1].


    Leaf G (6 columns in standard script):
    It pains me to be unable to [make my painting] light (dan) to that extent. Though trying my best to emulate it, in the end my brushwork remains cumbersome. On the tenth day of the seventh month [August 11], while raining. Dafeng


    Leaf K (1 Column in standard script):
    Sunset over the mountains.


    Leaf L (9 columns in standard script):
    Mr. Beijin presented this album to me for paintings. It happened that I just read Yuan Zhonglang’s [Yuan Hongdao, 1568–1610] collected writings, and liked his couplet: “Someone emerges out of a cave at the bottom of a waterfall; the sound of tossed pebbles in the mountain is heard in the village nearby.” I therefore made a painting of it, suspecting that I vaguely captured eighty or ninety percent of his idea. Your junior Zhang Feng casually inscribed this in the Fledging Crow Studio [Ruya Xuan].


    Artist's seals

    Feng 風 (Leaf A, B, C, D, F, I, J, K, L)
    Zhang Feng 張風 (Leaf E, H)
    Zhang Feng 張風 (Leaf G)


    Zhang Daqian 張大千(1899–1983), 5 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1968 (by seal); 4 seals:

    The Dafeng Tang Studio respectfully preserves the twelve-leaf album by Shangyuan Laoren [Zhang Feng]. An unrivaled masterpiece of the divine class, the one and only in the world. Yuan, Dhūta [Sanskrit for mendicant monk]. [seals]: Wushen, Zhang Yuan siyin, Daqian, Bade Yuan

    大風堂供養上元老人《山水冊》十二頁。無上神品,人間孤本。爰,杜多 [印]:戊申, 張爰私印, 大千, 八德園


    1. An Zhiyuan 安致遠 (act. ca. 1645–84), 9 columns in standard script; 1 seal [Leaf M]:
    余以乙未春赴燕京,夜宿單橋,挑燈讀壁上詩,見有所書“菩薩蠻”詞一首,字大於升,醉旭顛芾筆意如在。余依其韻而和之,今勿勿十年矣。壁上雖題姓字,然余以僻處海上,竟不知大風為何如人。今於櫟老夫子署中得悉大風生平,且以大風手蹟見示,老氣披紛,颯颯紙上,覺尺幅間如見張鎬鬚眉也。後學安致遠題。 [印]:靜子

    2. You Yin 尤蔭 (1732–1812), 10 columns in standard/semi-cursive script, dated 1781; 1 seal [Leaf M]:

    Collectors’ seals

    1. Zhang Shanzi 張善子 (1882–1940)
    Shanzi shending 善子審定 Leaf E

    2. Zhang Daqian 張大千 (1899–1983)
    Dafeng Tang 大風堂 Leaf A
    Niyan 昵燕 Leaf B
    Dafeng Tang 大風堂 Leaf C
    Daqian yandi 大千眼底 Leaf D
    Daqian Jushi 大千居士 Leaf F
    Daqian 大千 Leaf G
    Zhang Yuan 張爰 Leaf H
    Daqian 大千 Leaf H
    Cang zhi Daqian 藏之大千 Leaf I
    Zhang Yuan zhi yin 張爰之印 Leaf J
    Daqian 大千 Leaf J
    Dafeng Tang 大風堂 Leaf K
    Yuan yin爰印 Leaf L
    Wushen 戊申 Leaf N
    Zhang Yuan siyin 張爰私印 Leaf
    NDaqian 大千 Leaf N
    Bade Yuan 八德園 Leaf N

    3. He Guanwu 何冠五 (20th c.)
    Guanwu zhencang 冠五珍藏 Leaf E
    Tianxi Shuwu jiancang 田溪書屋鑑藏 Leaf G
    Tianxi Shuwu 田溪書屋 Leaf I

    1. Translations by Shi-yee Liu.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History