Of a Feather Flocking Together: Birds, Flowers, and Fruit in Melodic Harmony,Period 2019.01.01-03.25, Galleries 202,201
Of a Feather Flocking Together: Birds, Flowers, and Fruit in Melodic Harmony,Period 2019.01.01-03.25, Galleries 202,201
Of a Feather Flocking Together: Birds, Flowers, and Fruit in Melodic Harmony,Period 2019.01.01-03.25, Galleries 202,201
:::

     Birds have been an intimate part of people’s lives throughout history. Whether found in mountain forests or remote wetlands, encountered on walks in urban parks or along the road, or even seen around the home, birds appear almost everywhere we look. For this and other reasons, an appreciation of our feathered friends naturally became a popular leisure activity among many people.

     In ancient times, painters frequently referred to birds by one of their most distinctive features--feathers. The National Palace Museum, as it turns out, has more than two thousand paintings in its collection on the subject of birds done in various styles and formats. In the past, the Museum presented several special exhibitions focusing on birds, including "Song Dynasty Bird-and-Flower Album Leaves" from 1984, "A Treasured Aviary: Birds in Chinese Paintings Through the Ages" of 2001, and "The Sound of Many Birds, the Moving Nature of Each: Bian Wenjin’s ‘Three Friends and a Hundred Birds’" from 2010. As seen in those and the present display, many famous painters through the ages, such as Huang Quan (fl. 903-965), Xu Chongsi (10th c.), the monk Huichong (ca. 965-1017), Cui Bai (11th c.), Cui Que (11th c.), Li Anzhong (fl. 1119-1162), Li Di (12-13th c.), Ma Lin (ca. 1180-after 1256), and Wu Bing (12th c.), specialized in depicting birds and left behind masterpieces capturing the spirit and appearance of these marvelous animals, serving as most fitting reminders of their marvelous variety.

     This special exhibition presents a selection of 31 works/sets of birds in Galleries 202 and 212. The works, which date from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties up to modern times, can be divided into the two categories of "Ripe Fruit Beckon Birds" and "Birds Sing of Floral Fragrance." Also on display with the artworks are photographs of the birds depicted therein, allowing audiences to closely compare images of the brush and camera to see how artists over the centuries observed the world of birds with great detail. In their quest to overcome the constraints of formal likeness, artists used brush and ink to engage in a dialogue with their myriad surroundings to express the emotions and creativity of heart and mind. In this age when conservation is increasingly important, we encourage all to come to the National Palace Museum at springtime and appreciate paintings and birds to experience a beautiful melody of birds, flowers, and fruit in harmony.

Selections

Apples and a Wild Bird

  1. Huang Quan (ca. 903-965), Five Dynasties period

     A vinous-throated parrotbill is shown perched on a branch in this painting previously a round fan but now mounted as an album leaf. The light and lively stance of the bird contrasts with the heavy branch laden with ripe apples, creating an unparalleled sense of fullness. The turning leaves are also rendered with exquisite detail and animation; even dark spots in brown and black for worm holes are included to make this representation especially lifelike and convincing.
     This leaf comes from the album "Garden of Art Treasures." A title label on the upper right corner of the mounting gives the artist as Huang Quan, who was active in the Five Dynasties to early Northern Song period. However, judging from the style, the date of the work is probably closer to the Painting Academy of the following Southern Song. The composition of this painting is quite close to a square leaf by the Southern Song artist Lin Chun (fl. 1174-1189) in the Beijing Palace Museum collection entitled "Ripe Fruit and a Bird." It shows that the Painting Academy in the Song dynasty produced "several versions from one original."

Photographer: Wang Chien-te

Pair of Mandarin Ducks on an Autumn Bank

  1. Huichong (ca. 965-1017), Song dynasty

     Huichong was a painter-monk of the Northern Song period specializing in refined and lyrical renditions of intimate scenery. He was particularly gifted at depicting autumn scenes.
     This painting from "Collected Album of Paintings Through the Ages" shows a pair of green-winged teal (erroneously given in the title as mandarin ducks) standing at rest by a river bank. The artist employed withered lotus leaves and reeds as seasonal indicators of early autumn, the light and elegant colors further highlighting an atmosphere of remote serenity. The feathers of the teal are rendered in fine clustered brush dots to fully suggest their fluffiness. The outlines of the reeds compared to the "boneless" washes used for the lotus leaves create a striking contrast between force and elegance. Though not possible at this time to ascertain if the work is indeed by Huichong, it nonetheless is a masterpiece of "intimate" painting from the Song dynasty that invites continuous appreciation.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Flycatcher and Loquats

  1. Xu Chongsi (10th c.), Song dynasty

     This leaf from the album "Garden of Art Treasures" bears neither seal nor signature of the artist but has a title label attributing it to Xu Chongsi, grandson of the famous painter Xu Xi (9th-10th c.) and a native of Zhongling (modern Nanjing). Record of Experiences in Painting from the Northern Song states that Xu Chongsi excelled at "boneless" painting, directly applying washes of color instead of using outlines of ink for the subject matter.
     This work in the shape of a round fan depicts an Asian paradise flycatcher with its distinctive dark blue head and white body. It is perched on the branch of a loquat tree laden with fruit and gazes back, its body and unusually long tail feathers forming an inverted "S" shape in this especially marvelous composition. The loquats, branches, and feathers were done in outlines filled with colors. Despite the considerable refinement and realism of this work, it is unrelated to "boneless" painting and thus probably painted by another artist.

Photographer: Teng Kuang-yu

Peacocks and a Loquat Tree

  1. Cui Bai (fl. 11th c.), Song dynasty

     Cui Bai (style name Zixi), a native of Haoliang (modern Fengyang, Anhui) was an Erudite of Painting at the Painting Academy under Emperor Renzong (reigned 1022-1063). He excelled at rendering bird-and-flower subjects and inherited the foundations of the two traditions associated with Xu Xi and Huang Quan. His brush methods thereby combine the virtues of both their fine-line and coarse styles, having great natural rusticity. "Magpies and Hare" in the Museum collection is Cui Bai’s most famous surviving masterpiece.
     This work has neither the seal nor the signature of the artist, but the editors of Third Compilation of Collected Treasures of the Stony Moat (part of the Qing imperial catalogue) attributed it to Cui Bai. The scroll depicts a pair of male green peafowl (peacocks), one standing on the trunk of a loquat tree and the other walking among flowers. Above appears an Asian paradise flycatcher and yellow-bellied tits to complement the scenery of a Lake Tai garden rock and many kinds of flowers. The composition, though, is unusually raucous and decorative, differing somewhat from the plain elegance shown in Cui Bai's "Magpies and Hare."

Photographer: Teng Kuang-yu, Wang Chia-hsiung,

Lycium Berries and a Quail

  1. Cui Que (11th c), Song dynasty

     Cui Que, a native of Fengyang in Anhui, was active under the Northern Song emperor Shenzong (reigned 1067-1085) and served in the Painting Academy at the imperial court. He was the elder brother of Cui Bai (fl. 11th c.), both of them specializing in bird-and-flower painting and achieving exceptional renown.
     This leaf from the album "Collected Assembly of Tang, Song, and Yuan Paintings" has no seal or signature of the artist, so it is unknown if Cui Que actually painted it. However, in the upper right corner is an impression for the "Seal of Painting and Calligraphy Inspected by the Secretariat Department" from the Yuan dynasty court, so it must date no later than the Song dynasty. In the painting is a common quail and a mole cricket, both of which were not first rendered with outlines but depicted instead directly with ink washes, creating an unexpected aura of classical simplicity and refined elegance. This method of "falling ink" is particularly rare and unusual for Song dynasty painting.

Photographer: Su Chuan-kuai

Bamboo and Shrike

  1. Cui Que (11th c), Song dynasty

     Li Anzhong first served in the Painting Academy during the Xuanhe reign (1119-1125) of the Northern Song emperor Huizong. Following the chaos of the Jingkang Incident, he went south and resumed service under the Southern Song emperor Gaozong during the Shaoxing reign (1131-1162), also receiving the Golden Belt.
     The old title on this leaf from "Painting Album of Round Fans" identifies the bird as a dove, but the subject is a different species and obviously a Chinese gray shrike. In the lower right, among the bamboo leaves, is a signature in small characters for "Painting by the Gentleman of Complete Loyalty, Li Anzhong." The shrike and bamboo are painted in outlines filled with washes, the lines delicate yet strong, the colors warm and gentle. Imbuing the bird feathers with a sense of fluffiness, the artist has perfectly captured its spirit. The branch of thorns is done in the "boneless" manner without outlines and, within the pursuit of formal likeness, also reveals "sketching ideas" brushwork. This combination of highly accurate yet exceptionally varied brush methods is typical of the style in the transition between the Northern and Southern Song periods.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Seeds Visible in an Open Pomegranate

  1. Wu Bing (12th c.), Song dynasty

     Wu Bing, a native of Piling (modern Changzhou, Jiangsu), was a Painter-in-Attendance at the Painting Academy in the Shaoxi reign (1190-1194) of the Southern Song emperor Guangzong. He excelled at rendering "broken-branch" bird-and-flower subjects, his colorful paintings refined and beautiful.
     This leaf comes from the album "Collected Paintings of the Song and Yuan," the right side featuring a signature for Wu Bing hidden among the leaves. This round fan painting format mounted as an album leaf depicts two branches with ripe pomegranate fruit, one of which has already burst open to reveal the bright red flesh inside. Perched on the tip of a branch is a yellow-rumped flycatcher with its head cocked backwards in a pose exceptionally light and graceful. In Chinese culture, the pomegranate often symbolizes the ideas of plenty, fullness, and having many male descendants, so the depiction here is not only a representation from nature but also an auspicious expression of blessings to bring good fortune.

Photographer: Lin Sheng-hui

Late Snow and Wintry Birds

  1. Ma Lin (fl. 1195-1264), Song dynasty

     Ma Lin, a native of Qiantang, was the son of the famous court artist Ma Yuan (fl. 1190-1224), and he continued in the family tradition. He served as an Attendant in the Painting Academy during the Jiatai reign (1201-1204) of Emperor Ningzong.
     The lower right corner of this painting from the album "Collected Authentic Famous Paintings" bears the seal and signature of Ma Lin. Late on a winter day, branches of thorns and bamboo protrude from a cliff with a pair of daurian redstarts perched there and huddling against the cold. Areas of snow are shown as blank spaces with slight additions of white pigment to highlight the red berries and yellow feathers of the birds, adding a touch of warmth and liveliness to the hues. The lines for the thorns are angular and sharp, retaining the brush idea of Ma Yuan’s "dragged branches." The inscription on the upper left came from the brush of Emperor Ningzong, the combination of painting and calligraphy here creating the impression of poetry in painting.

Photographer: Lin Sheng-hui

Sunbirds on a Gingko Branch

  1. Ma Shichang, Song dynasty (960-1279)

     Ma Shichang was a court painter during the Song dynasty, but the details of his life, including birth and death dates, are unknown.。
     This leaf from the album "Collected Paintings of the Ages" bears Ma Shichang's signature at the right in the form of small characters using delicate brushwork. In the square format of this painting is a pair of birds identified in the title with a term now used for kingfishers. However, they are actually forked-tail sunbirds perched on the branch of a gingko tree, one looking down and the other upwards to form a rhythmic and circular arrangement. The leaves and fruit of the gingko are rendered using mineral green pigment combined with vegetable green hues to highlight the beautiful forms and colors of the birds. The turning and veins of the leaves feature brushwork that is exceptionally fine and dynamic, reflecting the creative aesthetics and keen observation of artists in the Song dynasty.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Sketches from Life

  1. Fachang (13th c.), Song dynasty

     Fachang, sometimes better known by his sobriquet Muqi, was a native of Sichuan. He lived at the Wannian Temple on Mt. Tiantai and was a disciple of Wuzhun Shifan (1179-1249). He excelled at painting dragons and tigers, gibbons and cranes, and figures. The forms he depicted are simple and unadorned; many of his surviving works are now found in Japan.
     This work is a handscroll of flowers, scenes of birds and animals, and fruits and vegetables done in the "boneless" manner of painting. Birds include the crested myna, common pheasant, spotted dove, and a flock of sparrows. Despite the brevity of the brushwork, the artist had a keen eye for the subject matter, capturing both the natural appearance and spirit. The Muqi signature here is dated to the equivalent of 1265, while the scroll at the end features colophons by Xiang Yuanbian (1525-1590), the monk Yuanxin (16th c.), and Cha Shibiao (1615-1698) as well as many collection seals of Ming and Qing dynasty literati, making for a long history of documentation.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Sparrows, Bamboo, and a Tree

  1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)

     This leaf, with no signature of the artist, comes from the album "Collected Paintings by Song Artists." Originally a round fan, it was later remounted as an album leaf. It depicts three sparrows, a mother and two chicks. The mother holds a small insect in her beak and has flown over to her chicks, who have beaks agape and wings flapping as they clamor to be fed. The brush lines of the bamboo, tree, and thorns are especially strong and tense, appearing ready to spring back under the weight of the birds.
     Bird-and-flower painters of the Song dynasty were keen observers of the subjects they depicted. Not only did they render their creations with great refinement and realism, they also filled the depictions with life. Take this intimate scene, for example. It aptly conveys the tensile strength of bamboo stalks as well as the close interaction between the three birds, attracting the viewer’s attention to study them in greater detail.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Yellow Bird on a Mulberry Branch

  1. Anonymous, Song dynasty (960-1279)

     This work from the album "Collected Authentic Works" depicts a black-naped oriole perched on the branch of a mulberry tree. Looking upward with a mulberry in its beak, the spirit and pose of the bird are very natural. The coloring of both tree and bird are exceptionally refined, the lines varying with the subject matter in no established way, giving the impression of closely following nature. As such, the work can be called a Song masterpiece of sketching from life.
     This painting has neither seal nor signature of the artist, but the brushwork of the branches is similar to that of the Song emperor Huizong's (r. 1100-1125) "Chimonanthus and Birds" and "Five-Colored Parakeet on a Blossoming Apricot Tree." Here, the painting of the bird, on the other hand, is close to that of the anonymous Song "Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds," a work of the Painting Academy from Huizong's Xuanhe reign (1119-1125). In light of the "Xuanhe" seal impression on this work, it may be assumed to have also been done at this time.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Pair of Birds on a Flowering Apricot Tree

  1. Wu Bin (mid-16th c.), Ming dynasty

     Wu Bin was a native of Putian in Fujian but later resided in Jinling (Nanjing). He became famous in painting during the Wanli reign (1573-1620), his figures, bird-and-flower subjects, and landscapes all perceptive and innovative in departing from the restraints of antiquity.
     This scroll depicts the trunk of an old apricot tree extending into the composition from the right with two mandarin ducks huddled together on it, the emotional idea amply represented. Though the trunk is already hollowed with age, it still sprouts numerous blossoms in a majestic sight. Delicate branches extend upwards, the artist having skillfully hidden his seal and signature on the tip of the uppermost one. The mandarin duck is a kind of waterfowl rarely depicted as perched in a tree, so this painting is unusual both for the subject and composition. Combined with the delicate use of brush and ink as well as archaic elegance for the coloring, it manifests the artist's personal manner, which differs much from others.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Pair of Cranes in the Shade of Flowers

  1. Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766), Qing dynasty

     Lang Shining is the Chinese name of Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian from Milan who became a Jesuit noviate at the age of 19 and learned oil painting and architecture. After arriving in China at 27, his skill in painting came to imperial attention and he served the Qing courts of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong emperors. He learned traditional Chinese painting but also added elements of shading and perspective, his coloring quite opulent. With the artist’s training in Western realism, his works have an unusually natural quality.
     This hanging scroll depicts a pair of red-crowned cranes with two fluffy squabs not yet ready to fly as they take a walk among the flowers. The pose and feathers of the cranes are portrayed with exceptional life-likeness, the colors glistening in the light. This kind of realistic method was also employed in depicting the plants, such as the multiflora rose and iris blossoms, which are all rendered with great detail.

Photographer: Wang Chia-hsiung

Pair of Quails

  1. Lin Yu-shan (1907-2004), Republican period

     Lin Yu-shan, a native of Chiayi in Taiwan, once studied in Japan and learned painting from Inshō Dōmoto (1891-1975), his efforts reaching back as far as the fine-line brush methods of the Tang and Song dynasties. He earned a name as one of the "Three Youths of the Taiten" for his works selected in the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition held under Japanese colonial rule. After Taiwan was restored to Chinese control in 1945, he spent years teaching at art academies and became one of the most influential early modern painters in Taiwan.
     This painting, donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Lin-Po-ting, was done by Lin Yu-shan in 1935 at the age of 29 by Chinese reckoning. The entire work is rendered using outlines filled with color washes. It depicts two common quails, one standing and the other crouching on the ground. They are surrounded by green bamboo, dianthus, and bellflowers. The birds and plants are all realistically portrayed, the feathers rendered with outlines and washes especially fine and animated for a style brimming with elegant beauty similar to that found in Song dynasty painting.

Photographer: Su Chuan-kuai

Exhibit List

Title
Artist
Period
Apples and a Wild Bird
Huang Quan (ca. 903-965)
Five Dynasties period
Precious Birds and Auspicious Grain
Huang Quan (ca. 903-965)
Five Dynasties period
Bamboo, Rocks, and Lace-necked Doves
Huang Jucai (933-after 993)
Song dynasty
Pair of Mandarin Ducks on an Autumn Bank
Huichong (ca. 965-1017)
Song dynasty
Flycatcher and Loquats
Xu Chongsi (10th c.)
Song dynasty
Peacocks and a Loquat dlee
Cui Bai (fl. 11th c.)
Song dynasty
Lycium Berries and a Quail
Cui Que (11th c.)
Song dynasty
Windly Birds in a Snowy Scene
Wang Dingguo (11th c.)
Song dynasty
Bamboo and Shrike
Li Anzhong (fl. 1119-1162)
Song dynasty
Wild Flowers and Autumn Quail
Li Anzhong (fl. 1119-1162)
Song dynasty
Contentment and Delight of an Abundant Harvest
Li Di (12th-13th c.)
Song dynasty
Seeds Visible in an Open Pomegranate
Wu Bing (12th c.)
Song dynasty
Late Snow and Windly Birds
Ma Lin (fl. 1195-1264)
Song dynasty
Sunbirds on a Gingko Branch
Ma Shichang
Song dynasty
Cherries and Yellow Titmice
Ma Shichang
Song dynasty
Sketches from Life
Fachang (13th c.)
Song dynasty
Sparrows, Bamboo, and a dlee
Anonymous
Song dynasty
Duckling
Anonymous
Song dynasty
Yellow Bird on a Mulberry Branch
Anonymous
Song dynasty
Two Pines with Birds and Flowers
Anonymous
Song dynasty
Withered Lotuses and Mandarin Ducks
Zhang Zhong (fl. 1336-1360)
Yuan dynasty
Flowers and Birds
Lü Ji (ca. 1429-1505)
Ming dynasty
Flowers, Grasses, and Wild Birds
Lü Ji (ca. 1429-1505)
Ming dynasty
Sketches from Life
Sun Long (15th c.)
Ming dynasty
Pair of Birds on a Flowering Apricot dlee
Wu Bin (mid-16th c.)
Ming dynasty
Plum Blossoms and Wild Bird
Chen Hongshou (1598-1652)
Ming dynasty
Windly Sparrow on a Withered dlee
Zhu Da (1626-1705)
Qing dynasty
Flycatchers and Waxberry dlee
Jiang Tingxi (1669-1732)
Qing dynasty
Pair of Cranes in the Shade of Flowers
Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766)
Qing dynasty
Two Bird-and-Flower Paintings
Kakei Joshi (1840-1926)
Meiji period, Japan
Pair of Quails
Lin Yu-shan (1907-2004)
Republican period