Grace and resilience

Cold separations

While not explicitly an image of departure, WEN Zhengming's 文徵明 (1470-1559) expansive landscape can be taken as a metaphor for separation. Small face-less figures wind between eerily stilled villages and snowed-in boats. Above, the sky is leaden. The rendering of trees and mountains is fine and precise, the silk holding the ink like knife blades. Mineral colours in blue and green and the mannerism of trees are conventions recalling ancient painting – as though to suggest that times like this are always so, history as continuous present. It demands our forbearance.

The impression is perhaps not far from the reality of winter travel in pre-modern times. A mobile elite would have appreciated representations of the such hard facts of weather.

Wen painted several versions of this composition. The Taipei Palace Museum has one executed on paper that is softer - perhaps more heartening to the eyes.


WEN Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559),
Mount Guan Snowscape (details)
Handscroll, ink and colour on silk
21 x 418 cm
Private collection


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