Pear Blossoms

Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307)

Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
ca. 1280
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 12 5/16 x 37 7/8 in. (31.3 x 96.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 12 5/8 x 34 ft. 9 1/8 in. (32.1 x 1059.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1977
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Qian Xuan was one of the first scholar-painters to unite poetry, painting, and calligraphy within a single work. In Pear Blossoms a perfect interplay of poetic and pictorial imagery has been achieved. The artist's poem may be translated as follows:

    All alone by the veranda railing,
    teardrops drenching the branches,
    Although her face is unadorned,
    her old charms remain;
    Behind the locked gate, on a rainy night,
    how she is filled with sadness.
    How differently she looked bathed in golden waves
    of moonlight, before the darkness fell.

    Unlike Emperor Huizong's (r. 1101–25) Finches and Bamboo, which demonstrates a commitment to an accurate rendering of nature, Qian Xuan's flowering branch and the fading beauty it represents are expressions of the artist's personal feelings. Rather than rendering an objective description of the physical beauty of pear blossoms, Qian drew in a fine calligraphic line and used flat schematic patterns in elegant pale colors to create a mood of cool detachment, reflective of his state of mind. The tender lyricism of the poem is also fully present in his calligraphy, in which the brushstrokes echo the languidly twisting movement of the pear leaves.

  • See also