Loquat and White Eye Bird

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The painting shown here is a modern copy of the painting, ”Loquat and White Eye Bird” from the Chinese Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty (960 to 1279) had two distinct art styles.  The Nan Song (south Song) dealt largely with contemporary society and politics.  The Bei Song (north Song) largely dealt with the natural environment. The painting here is from the Bei Song. This school of art placed a strong emphasis on detail and naturalism.

I chose this painting because it reminds me of my youth.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of summer days when I would climb a loquat tree and harvest the beautiful, tasty fruits.  This picture shows in detail, a small branch of a loquat tree loaded with ripe fruit.  Perched at the top is bird called a white eye.  The white eye’s gaze is focusing on an ant at the top of the loquat cluster.  As I look over the painting, I find a second ant.

ant

Also, true to the Bei Song school of art, the some of the leaves show insect bites and imperfections true to real life.

bites

The dominant line of the painting follows the curved branch to draw the viewer’s eyes to the cluster of loquats.  The radiating leaves to the right and to the lower left, are balanced by the loquat cluster to the left.  The loquats feel as though they are growing up and to the left. A second line comes from the curve of the white eye to its gaze which points the viewer to the fine detail of the ant at the top of the loquat cluster.  We can sense the movement of the bird and even begin to feel how the branch will sway from the bird and from any slight breeze.

               The twists and turns of the leaves, the round, though rough, branch, and the round plumpness of the white eye give a softness that is both matched and in contrast to the softness of the round, ripe loquats.  The curves and overlapping of the leaves, and obscuring sections of the branches, gives a realistic three dimensional feeling.  Of note, the background is a light brown that reflects the effect of centuries of aging.  The original would have been painted on silk, which through slow oxidation, turns brown with age.  Also, in the original, the loquats would have been a lighter yellow and the leaves a deeper green.
               This painting was done by my sister.  She did the painting on paper, not silk, in order to copy how the “Loquat and White Eye Bird” looks today.  She first put down the brown background, then built up the details of the loquat tree, bird, and ants. True to the Bei Song style, she has faithfully captured the nature with a realism that almost makes one want to reach out a harvest the loquats.
Questions:
1) Do you have any favorite paintings that elicit your fond childhood memories?
2) Do you see life as a whole and perfect, or do you see life’s imperfection?
3) What do you think of the Bei Song school of naturalism?
Rui Tan
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11 thoughts on “Loquat and White Eye Bird

  1. When I first looked at this painting it reminded me of the kitchen for some reason I think it’s because of the fruits. But it also reminds me of nature because of the white eyed bird. Then I started reading more into what you wrote and I had no idea that the Chinese Song Dynasty had two types of art styles which deals with society, politics or the natural environment. I thought that this was very interesting because I did not know that. I can relate to you when you say that as a young child you would climb up the loquat tree my mother would always tell us that when she was younger she would always climb up the apple tree her parents had and grab the apples and eat them. This painting does relate a lot to life I didn’t really notice it but when you look at it and actually think about it you start to realize it. The leaves with the insect bites like you said are related so much to life you can plan and plan life but there will always be curves and turns and things that happen to people that you need to be able to handle. I think the leave with the insect bites is a great example of how in life you can make mistakes and life can put you down all the time as you get older but as the background ages into a brownish color you only get wiser with age. I would probably have to say all of Van Gogh’s paintings remind me a lot of my childhood memories. I had a teacher that was obsessed with the painting The Starry Night and I remember a time where we were looking at this painting and the teacher told us she wanted us to make a painting similar to this one. Then my sixth grade teacher also really liked Gogh’s artwork and there was a time in art class where we had to paint a similar painting to the scream but change up the expression. So now every time I think or look at any of Van Gogh’s work it always reminds me of my youth.

  2. I’ve always enjoyed art form Asia, mainly Japan and China. It had always compelled me with its lush colors and vivid detail. To me, it had always displayed a story with the utmist elegance and ease.

    This piece is, but, another example of capturing something simple in such a beatiful, soulful way. You’re knowledge of the style and history is impressive, making me need to find out more.

    Some of my favorite art from childhood include: Early Autumn, 13th century, by Song loyalist painter Qian Xuan, The Sakyamuni Buddha, by Zhang Shengwen The Burghers of Calais, by Auguste Rodin.

    Great work and thank you for introducing me into the art of something with so much depth and history.

  3. i really enjoyed the choice in this piece because Asian art is something that i don’t know much about and she did a great job of in-lighting me with the history of this piece. When i look at this piece I feel a sense of relaxation and peacefulness. The way its painted is soft with light colors and i think that’s what really help capture the realism of the bird and the fruit for me. Ruh asked “if we see life as being whole and perfect or its imperfections?” I like to look at the imperfection in life, we all have imperfections and that’s what makes us who we are.

  4. its so crazy how the simplicity of this painting can hold and carry so many details. I love how you explain that the bites on the leaves are imperfections because I could understand how the rest of the colors and features seem to be put into place except for the leaves because its assumed that if its broken or bitten that it doesn’t look as beautiful if it would with the leaves whole together. I don’t really have a favorite childhood painting, but I’m sure if I saw popular ones that were painted during that era I would most likely remember them. This painting does hold innocence to be felt of youth. The colors seem delicate and the bird seems observant as so would a child in their youth. I think its a perfect balance of imperfects during your youthful years. We tend to be a little naïve but it does not mean that we still don’t hold beauties.

  5. This painting seems very simple or plain at first glance, then as your eyes wander you can really start seeing detail, especially with the bird and the fruit. It is nice that it has some personal significance to you. After explaining your youth and the painting in depth, I can see how you can easily see this piece in a different way than some others. I have certain images that immediately spark memories as well, so I can relate to your story.

  6. I love the colors in this painting. This is the same color palette I chose for the main room in my lakehouse–the golden yellows and greens. The insects and little imperfections in the leaves make me smile. For the last few years I have been taking naturalist classes and workshops at the Morton Arboretum studying local flora and fauna, so this piece really appeals to me for that reason, as well. My favorite childhood painting is Two Sisters (On the Terrace) by Renoir. I would get lost in the beauty of the bright primary colors, and loved the older sister’s red hat.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely painting that is so personal and rich in culture.

  7. First off I love that this painting reminds you of your youth and that you actually got to experience the smells and tastes of the loquat fruit pictured. Second, I admire the work that your sister created. It is beautiful! I also like how you pointed out the tiny ant in your blog because I would have totally missed that important detail! I love the soft colors of yellow, green, and brown that are used. It definitely fits this painting appropriately due to the involvement of nature at is course.

  8. I do not have a painting that I think about that would represent a childhood memory at all. But I think this painting is very peaceful and can make you think about life and where you are headed in your life. Nature has a way of making you look at things very differently starting with yourself. nd looking at this picture you can see that something can be so simple but yet mean so much.

  9. I really like this piece! I love Asian art personally and I really enjoy how soft and gentle this piece is. Comparing this to a song bird is perfect! I also really like how the focus for the bird isn’t the obvious pant but the tiny little ant that is so small I definitely wouldn’t have noticed right away if you didn’t point it out. The colors are also so well blended and have really good flow. Even though the painting is soft I appreciate the texture that is added from the leaves that really adds some good dimension.

  10. Thanks for the post Rui!

    Growing up in a Chinese household, this piece does nothing but remind me of how my house looks. My father was very big on art and sculptures, so I was introduced to this kind of art at a very early age. Even now, my father is still telling me about sculptures or scrolls he finds at markets that he buys for the house. I have secretly been hanging up the old ones in my own room, and have started a sizable collection (albeit of my father’s unwanted stuff!). Hopefully one day, I’ll have a collection that rivals his.

  11. Great post, Rui!

    As a Chinese born American, I grew up in a house containing a lot of art much like the one your sister makes. I find it interesting that even though I consider myself more American, I can still recognize and appreciate every form from every culture. Your first question really ties it all up for me. I think some of my fondest memories when I was younger was going to China with my father and walking around and talking with him while he shopped for art. It’s great to see that my fellow classmates also have similar tales, and that art is truly something that can cross cultural barriers!

    From,

    Calvin

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