Dignity, sympathy, participation

Dignity and grace in the commonplace

Arranging cut flowers knows many variations. Literati emphasized naturalistic gestures of stems and the rhythmic ease of flowers. Excessively dramatic composition was avoided – perhaps as this would recall that the flowers were cut and in the course of dying.

These sentiments are echoed in flower painting where a parade of seasonal flowers weaves lightness, heaviness, density and varied complexity of petals and leaves. Subtlety is found in the scaling of each flower and the spaces left between them.

This dynamic balance can be seen in an album of JIN Junming 金俊明 (1602-1675). The principal branches cut diagonally across the page, but a bundle folds back at the center creating a palpable tension punctuated by a dark branch rising from below. Throughout, the substance dances between scaly branches and delicate blossoms, a contrast further expressed in brushwork – with fine sharp lines for the petals, and rough, dry, scrumbly strokes for the branches.

LUO Pin 羅聘 (1733-1799) offers another approach to plum blossoms. In a handscroll unwinding from right to left, the composition skitters forward with rough, wet, staccato strokes for the branches. Gradually these give way to an abundance of blossoms, painted in quick, repetitive fashion, a billowing cloud.


JIN Junming 金俊明
Plum Blossoms
Album of 8 leaves
Ink on silk
23.5 x 16.2 cm
Private collection
LUO Ping 罗聘 (1733-1799)
Plum Blossoms
Handscroll, ink on paper
32.4 x 141 cm
Private collection