Exhibitions/ Art Object

清 趙之謙 篆書 對聯 紙本

Zhao Zhiqian (Chinese, 1829–1884)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Two hanging scrolls; ink on paper
Image (each scroll): 54 3/4 × 10 in. (139.1 × 25.4 cm) Overall with mounting (a): 79 × 13 5/8 in. (200.7 × 34.6 cm) Overall with mounting (b): 79 1/2 × 13 3/4 in. (201.9 × 34.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by Guanyuan Shanzhuang Collection
Not on view
清 趙之謙 篆書 對聯 紙本

One of Zhao Zhiqian’s great accomplishments was the revival of seal script, an ancient script that served as China’s main form of writing from around 1200 B.C to 200 B.C. Seal script is onerous to write: it requires the calligrapher to move slowly and maintain a regular line width while making tortuous turns of the brush. This is why it was abandoned in favor of faster forms of writing and, in part, why it was so attractive to calligraphers like Zhao, who enjoyed the challenge posed by this old-fashioned way of writing. Zhao’s sinuous line is inspired by ancient seal script, but, here, his calligraphy is a creative interpretation that combines elements of other scripts, such as strokes that flare or taper toward the end.

The text (translated and transcribed in standard script below) is a poem composed from two separate works by Gong Zizhen (1792–1841).

Right: Do not rashly claim the prestige that Xie [An (320–385)] had in his time.
Left: Just set your own fashion, and do not be a teacher of it.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy—Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang," April 29, 2014–August 17, 2014.