Shen Zhou (style name Qi’nan; sobriquets Shitian and Baishiweng) was a native of Changzhou in Jiangsu (modern Wuxian). He excelled at the arts of poetry, calligraphy, and painting, especially landscapes in the latter. Shen Zhou was also skilled at depicting flowers, fruits, and vegetables as well as animals, his use of brush and ink having an archaic simplicity to it.
This leaf, from “Album of Sketching from Life,” was done in the “boneless” technique of washes to depict a close-up of this flowering plant in the “broken branch” manner. The day lily blossom is exceptionally dainty and posed. The blades extend gracefully with “flying white” streaks in the brushwork to suggest their flow, giving this work much of the brush manner of calligraphy. The brushwork throughout ranges dramatically from light to dark, faithfully capturing the essence of the subject. Shen Zhou scrupulously adhered to Confucian principles in his life and was quite filial to his mother. In fact, he once wrote a poem that stated, “My mother loved day lilies; Thousands of their blossoms were in front of the hall. I make a present of this idea; I grind the ink and dot the flowers of spring.” This painting is thus not only a sketch from life, but also a lodging of the artist’s sentiments and an expression of remembrance for his mother.(20110102)