Double Cranes Painting

"Double Cranes Painting" is collected in National Art Museum of China. In the painting, two red-crowned cranes are standing face to face. One is standing on one claw, with its back bent and neck stretching out. The flowers and grass under its claws are luxuriant. The other one bends its body; its slender neck in shrunk back in a shape of "S", as if it wants to look for food in the grass which sets it off.

In the earliest Chinese poetry collection, "The Book of Songs-Whooping Crane", there are such famous lines: cranes live for one thousand years to enjoy travels. In the traditional Chinese culture, cranes are mounting for immortals, and symbol of longevity. From ancient times to the present, red-crowned crane is always the beloved lucky bird of people. "Double Cranes Painting" by Zhu Da changed the image of crane in traditional Chinese paintings. The cranes painted by him are plain and a little bit clumsy, and shrinks back its neck, standing on rock on one claw. Its eyes are wide open and staring at to sky. It appears to be in a daze. The work had certain sense of humor. 

In Chinese paintings, crane is the most common theme. The cranes painted by Zhu Da were distinctive from the common. In his works, the beautiful red-crowned crane in people's mind became a little bit clumsy and was more realistic. This was a bold innovation. Why did Zhu Da deliberately exaggerate the image of crane? We have to begin with the uncanny life experience of Zhu Da.

Zhu Da, from Nanchang, Jiangxi, in his works, inscriptions of "Bada Shanren" can often be found. So people got used to call him "Bada Shanren". According to history records, he received good education since he was a child. After the Ming Dynasty collapsed, he became a common man from a royal family member overnight. In order to escape from persecution, Zhu Da did in remote mountains and became a monk. He was a monk for 27 years. In his later years, he resumed secular life. Later he became a Taoist, and lived the rest of his life in poverty.

The cranes painted by him were of high artistic level, and were admired by ancient literati. This was because in the mind of literati, crane was a noble sacred bird, and also a symbol of noble spirit. The cranes created by Zhu Da were standing on one claw, and always on dangerous rock or cliff. They were obviously similar to the conceited literati. This kind of image of crane was rare in traditional paintings. Moreover, Zhu Da's composition of painting was quite different. The composition was always top heavy and big end up, and broke the visual balance. What's more, the cranes were standing on one claw, so it appeared to be more dangerous. This kind of method made the fixed painting have dynamic effect, and thus achieved the artistic effect of motion in quiescence.

Cranes created by Zhu Da were copied by many people. So there were many imitations. Experts say, to judge whether the work was created by Zhu Da, there is a most obvious standard, this is, queer ayes and standing on one leg. Queer eyes refer to that the cranes created by Zhu Da have large eyes, while the eyeballs are small black dots. Furthermore, the cranes don't look at each other, but look around in different directions. 

In "Double Cranes Painting", the inscription of "Bada Shanren" expressed the contradictory and depressed emotion of Zhu Da. He wrote "Bada" and "Shanren" in a vertical line. The first two characters look like the character "Ku (cry)" and also "Xiao (smile)", while the last two characters look like "Zhi (it)". "Cry at it and smile at it" refers to be at a loss whether to cry or laugh. In the flower-bird paintings of Zhu Da, flying bird is the most common theme. Bird is the symbol freedom. Maybe through painting birds, Zhu Da expressed his desire for freedom. His flying birds are in a connection of "strange".

Among the literati paintings in history, there are few paintings with such simple composition. People describe the fish painted by Zhu Da as "fish without water". Experts say, Zhu Da adopted micro perspective in the painting. In fact, he painted a quiescent fish in water.

The themes of flower-bird paintings of Zhu Da  included crane, myna, quail, fish, and duck and so on. He even changed his name to "Lu (donkey)". He used names as Luwu, Lushu and Luhan. This painter seemed to be in preference to animals. But nobody knows the reason of this.

Most of the time in his life, Zhu Da lived in seclusion. Therefore, few his works were handed down. People always compete to collect his works. That this "Double Cranes Painting" could be collected by National Art Museum of China was connected with a special list.

One day in 1964, the workers of National Art Museum of China suddenly received a donation list of Deng Tuo, who was the director of "People's Daily". It was clearly noted in the list that he wad willing to donate the 154pieces of cultural relics for free. Eras and authors were specified in the list. "Double Cranes Painting" was one of them. These precious calligraphy and painting works were best collections of Deng Tuo. After he donated the cultural relics to our country, he wrote down such a sentence: "I love civilization rather than treasures; I am an owner of property rather than a slave." From his words, we can see his noble personality which enables him to donate his collections selflessly for the continuity of Chinese civilization.

In January 2011, the National Art Museum of China held a large-scale exhibition of donations of the past fifty tears. The "Double Cranes Painting" of Zhu Da was exhibited. When people were appreciating the flower-bird paintings by Zhu Da at a close range, they were also moved by donators.

 

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