Irony, play and compassion

Playing at painting - Shen Zhou's garden scenes

Similarly, Shen Zhou's calligraphy does not show driving power, but rather a drained and careful rhythm, revealed especially in the speed of the larger strokes and the small flourishes that complete particular characters. Here it finds a particular echo with the painting of a willow. Likewise, his seal is thin and elegant, matching the disposition of longer strokes in the tree.

Shen Zhou's careful mix of humour and elegance, rough amateurism and exquisite balance was a beacon to later generations, especially the inventive recluse painters of the early Qing Period such as Shitao 石濤 (1641-1707) and ZHU Da 朱耷 aka Badashanren 八大山人 (1626-1705)


 Shen Zhou 沈周 (1427-1509)
Handscroll with six sections
Ink and colour on paper
30.5 x 45.3 cm (each section)
Private collection

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