Handscroll, ink on paper
Image: 26 x 96.2 cm (10 1/4 x 37 7/8 in.); Overall: 28.9 x 534.7 cm (11 3/8 x 210 1/2 in.)
Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1980.13
In East Asian art, peonies traditionally symbolize prosperity and wealth.
One of the so-called Yangzhou Eccentrics (a group of painters who lived in Yangzhou and were known for their unorthodox art and lifestyle), Gao Fenghan depicts China’s two most loved flowers in full bloom—the “cold beauty,” or plum blossom, in the first section, and the “king of flowers,” or peony, in the second section. Painted in 1741, the year when Gao decided to leave the south and return home to Shandong province in eastern China, this work was likely a token of farewell. His casual brushwork may indicate his mental and physical struggle at the time. After having crippled his right hand in 1737, Gao used his left hand to paint and achieved a crudeness and eccentric style unattainable before.
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