ObeliskZhao Mengfu

Twin Pines, Level Distance

Twin Pines, Level Distance, Zhao Mengfu
Twin Pines, Level Distance, zoomed in
26.8 cmTwin Pines, Level Distance scale comparison107.5 cm
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Twin Pines, Level Distance is a Yuan Dynasty Ink and Paper Drawing created by Zhao Mengfu in 1310. It lives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Trees. SourceDownload

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This spare, enigmatic scene represents a revolutionary redirection in Chinese painting. Zhao Mengfu reduces his “painted” landscape to a set of calligraphic brush conventions, with the rocks executed in “flying-white” cursive and the pines outlined in unmodulated seal script. He rejects representation and relies instead on expressive brush lines to imbue his imagery with personal meaning.

Zhao underscores his commitment to this new approach by adding a title to the right of his pines and writing a long inscription on top of the distant mountains at the left side of the composition, making it clear that his painting is not merely about landscape scenery.

Despite his adherence to this new style, Zhao chooses a traditionally significant subject. In Chinese art, pine trees have long been emblems of survival. By representing them here, Zhao may be referring to his own political survival under the Mongol occupation, as well as to the endurance of Chinese culture under foreign rule.

Caption by the MET.

Reed Enger, "Twin Pines, Level Distance," in Obelisk Art History, Published April 11, 2018; last modified April 11, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/zhao-mengfu/twin-pines-level-distance/.

Further reading atmetmuseum.org
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