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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Flowering cherry
    Fan painting - Flowering cherry by Yi Nianzeng

    Prunus blossoms with inscription. Yi Nianzeng is another painter whose fame is tied to that of his father, the great calligrapher and aesthetician Yi Bingshou (1754-1815).Nianzeng aspired to an official career, and eventually held a post in Zhejiang province, which would have brought him into contact with the world of the lower Yangtse River Valley. This was the home of most of the artists represented in this collection. Nianzeng was known for his seal and clerical script, and also for prunus blossoms, as in this example. There is a certain awkwardness in the composition of this fan. Many earlier artists created a composition where the main branch of the tree descended from the top of the painting, but here the two branches cross and create an "eye" just below the edge of the fan, and in the eye the minor branches crisscross making an artificial pattern. The point of the subject is to highlight the profusion of blossoms, but here the branches dominate, and the blossoms are almost pushed to the background. It is worth noting that in the calligraphy illustrated in the Kuo and Sturman volume, there is some of this same awkwardness and geometric structure. Too few of Nianzeng's works have been illustrated to make a general judgment. In the future this critique can be used to judge his other works.