|Born||November 28, 1470|
|Died||1559 (aged 88–89)|
|Known for||painting, calligraphy|
Wen Zhengming was born Wen Bi in present-day Suzhou on November 28, 1470. He would later be known by his courtesy name, Zhengming. When he was two years old, his father, Wen Lin, passed the imperial examination with the highest possible rank, jinshi. Wen Lin was assigned a government position as a magistrate in Yongjia County in Zhejiang province, and left for his job, leaving his two sons in the care of his wife, Qi Shenning. In 1476, Qi died of an illness at the age of 32. Wen Lin commissioned the noted scholar Li Dongyang to write an inscription for her tomb.
Wen Zhengming’s family was originally from Hengyang, Hunan province, where his family had established itself shortly after the 10th century. Not until the time of his great-grandfather, Wen Hui, a military officer, did the family move to the Suzhou area. Zhengming was a distant relative of the Song dynasty official Wen Tianxiang, through an ancestor who lived in Hengshan County in Hunan. From this he derived his hao (art name), Hengshan, which he used to sign many of his works. His father Wen Lin and his grandfather Wen Hong (Gongda) were both interested in painting. Wen Lin was also a patron of Tang Yin, Wen Zhengming's contemporary and fellow member of the "Four Masters".
Around 1509-1513, Wang Xianchen, a friend of the Wen family, began construction on the Humble Administrator's Garden, generally considered one of China's greatest classical gardens. The garden is the subject of some of Wen Zhengming's poems and paintings, including an album of thirty-one views painted in 1535 and a second of eight views in 1551.
Zhengming's eldest son, Wen Peng, was a noted seal-engraver. His second son. Wen Jia, was also an artist, as was his nephew Wen Boren. His great grandson, Wen Zhenheng, a noted garden designer, rebuilt the Garden of Cultivation in Suzhou.
Wen often chose painting subjects of great simplicity, like a single tree or rock. His work often brings about a feeling of strength through isolation, which often reflected his discontent with official life. Many of his works also celebrate the contexts of elite social life for which they were created.
One of eight album leaves depicting the Humble Administrator's Garden, painted in 1551
Wintry trees after Li Cheng
Pi Pa Xing in semi-cursive script
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wen Zhengming.|
- Cai, Yanxin (2011). Chinese Architecture. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521186447.
- Chang, Kang-i Sun; Owen, Stephen, eds. (2010). The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature: From 1375. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521855594.
- Clunas, Craig (2004). Elegant Debts: The Social Art of Wen Zhengming, 1470-1559. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824827724.
- Clunas, Craig (2013). Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China. Reaktion Books. ISBN 178023158X.
- Sun, Weizu (2004). Chinese Seals: Carving Authority and Creating History. Long River Press. ISBN 1592650139.
- Watson, William (2000). The Arts of China: 900-1620. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300098359.
- Four Great Masters of the Ming Dynasty: Wen Zhengming at the National Palace Museum, Taipei
- Bamboo, Orchids, Rock, and Calligraphy at the Worcester Art Museum
- The First Prose Poem on the Red Cliff by Wen Zhengming at the Detroit Institute of Arts
- Wen Zhengming at Mildchina
- Wen Zhengming at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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