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Ink Painting and the Rinpa Tradition

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Horses and Grooms

Zhao Mengfu (Chinese, 1254–1322)

Artist:
Zhao Yong (Chinese, 1289–after 1360)
Artist:
Zhao Lin (Chinese, active second half of the 14th century)
Period:
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Date:
1296 and 1359
Culture:
China
Medium:
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 11 7/8 x 70 1/8 in. (30.2 x 178.1 cm) Overall with mounting: 12 1/4 in. x 29 ft. 2 1/2 in. (31.1 x 890.3 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Accession Number:
1988.135
  • Description

    These images of horses and grooms were painted by three generations of the Zhao family. The first is by the legendary artist Zhao Mengfu, the second by his son Zhao Yong, and the third by his grandson Zhao Lin. Zhao Mengfu was one of the great painters of his day and admired for his depictions of horses. His work, the rightmost of the three, mixes confident, subtly modulated lines with sensitively applied dry ink washes to describe his horse with the bare minimum of wasted motion. The groom’s face, which looks directly out to meet our gaze, is rendered with an equally deft touch. These factors, combined with the striking geometry of the work—the horse’s rump appears to have been drawn with a compass, for example—create an image both eye-catching and subtle.

    Sixty-three years after Zhao Mengfu painted his horse and groom, in 1359, the owner of the painting showed it to Zhao Mengfu’s son and grandson, each of whom added his own version of the subject. Son and grandson are inevitably overshadowed by their father’s extraordinary skills. Zhao Yong’s contour lines lack the supple grace of his father’s, and his groom is more of a caricature. Zhao Lin’s image is the most formulaic of the three, and his awkwardly proportioned groom has an ambiguous relationship to his horse. Nevertheless, as a group, these three paintings constitute a powerful document of the Zhao family’s passion for art.

    The Museum is pleased to present this masterpiece for a limited period to celebrate the Year of the Horse.

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