Ink Plum – momei – is an important genre of Chinese Brush Painting, which flourished from the Song dynasty onwards.
Plum blossom (mei hua, prunus mume) is one of the Four Gentlemen, and one of the Three Friends of Winter. It symbolises winter and virginity, as well as strength, fortitude, virtue, and venerable old age. It is associated with poetry and learning. In addition, the 5 petals of the blossom represent the Five Blessings (longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and a peaceful death).
Plum blossom is usually painted in ink, with twisting old branches and fresh twigs, though the blossoms may also be painted in red or pink.
Notable painters of plum blossom include:
- Zhongren, founder of ink plum painting in the Song dynasty.
- Ma Yuan – Viewing plum blossoms by moonlight –
and his son Ma Lin (Song) – Layer on Layer of Icy Silk.
- Zhao Mengjian, known for his Three Friends of Winter.
- Yang Wujiu – Four Branches of Plum Blossoms.
- Yansou (late Southern Song/early Yuan) – Plum blossoms handscroll.
- Wang Mian (Yuan) specialised in plum blossom & bamboo, and was apparently one of the earliest artists to write his own poetry on his paintings. Fragrant Snow at Broken Bridge.
- Zou Fulei (Yuan), a poet who painted plum blossom in the style of Zhongren. Famous for handscroll A Breath of Spring – his sole surviving work!
- Liu Shiru (Ming), Plum in Snow.
- Chen Lu – Plum Blossoms in Moonlight, is in the Asian art museum in Berlin – see my photo of a part of it above.
- Xu Wei ( Ming). Very free boneless blossoms.
- Li Fangying (Qing) – Album of Blossoming Plum.
- Jin Nong (Qing) – Plum Blossoms.
- Wu Changshuo (Late Qing/Republic).
Links & videos:
- Henry Li
- sketching Liu Shiru.
- Sketching plum blossom in Nanjing, and more, and in Wuxi and more. Useful to see the actual trees and blossom.
- Tutorials: 1 introduction with good points at 4;45; 2 with useful guidance on where to start and moss dots; 3 , coloured blossom; 4, outline blossom & brush loading. He paints branches first, in the traditional order.
- Open-air painting japonica, with interesting large branch.
- Virginia Lloyd-Davies has a video and tips on her website (scroll down the page). Note that she paints the flowers first.
There are many introductory books for plum blossom. This is a really useful detailed analysis of famous plum blossom paintings, which I got from Oriental Arts.
© Angela Reich 2021