A native of Anhui province, Wang Shishen was a professional painter who specialized in plum blossoms. He moved to Yangzhou in the late 1720s to seek patrons. Here, the daring composition of a flowering plum branch is balanced through the addition of four poems. Wang’s poems evoke nostalgia for the forgotten Six Dynasties period and the glorious Sui dynasty, during which the Grand Canal was built while Yangzhou was the southern capital of the empire. Other inscriptions in the upper part of the painting allude to the fact that Wang had developed blindness in one eye, probably at the time he conceived this painting.
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