Monday, September 23, 2019

Zhao Mengfu, and his supremely talented missus, Guan Daosheng

this painting, is by Zhao Mengfu's talented wife, Guan Daosheng ...

One of Zhao Mengfu's best and simplest paintings was a “copy” or re-interpretation of this one by his wife, which he painted after her death and shortly before his own.

A short anecdote about their relationship ... In those days, court officials could afford more than one wife but the pair seemed happy enough.  However, later in life she learned that he was contemplating the acquisition of another concubine.  She wrote him this little poem and left it in a place where he would soon chance upon it.

You and I
Have so much love,
That it
Burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Moulded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them,
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mould again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share a single coffin.

It was interesting for me to see how these painters dealt with space and perspective and temporal narratives, and how their Buddhist faith and studies led them towards a simpler style ... I had begun my inquiry whilst searching for any classical Chinese paintings that might show rain as it falls ... I only found one some time after these two lived  .... but the ramble through Chinese painting, and then wondering how they might have influenced great Japanese artists, eventually led me on to Tanaka Maho's excellent summary of Hockney's deeply informed responses to temporal and spatial perspectives in Chinese and Japanese art ... which I would like to encourage people to read ...