Zhao Mengfu’s A Sheep and Goat art work is one of the dominant paintings studied in the history of China. Zhao Mengfu was also a prominent painter of the early Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Zhao Mengfu balances both the mood and the posture of the sheep and goat by turning their heads back towards each other. This forms an integrated composition to the general message displayed by these animals (McCausland & Mengfu 116). The painting of three goats is a common motif that welcomes the New Year in China. In China, the New Year is associated with transformation as well as prosperity of people. More so, this painting of three goats sometimes coincides with the lunar calendar or the year of goats in China hence, giving it even more significance.
Zhao Mengfu’s A Sheep and Goat painting ignored much shading as well as painting since the author believes that shading is associated with European styles. The main idea, which had been adopted by the ancient Chinese painters, emphasized on originality. The sheep and goat painting link the display of ink, as well as the textural modes to bring out a simple painting. Zhao Mengfu utilizes space in his paintings by using the imperceptible linear object, which eliminates objects at a distance. He also employs an aerial inclination that makes distant objects seem extremely far. Moreover, the sheep in Zhao’s painting adopts a flat picture flame that displays a pattern of dappling the coat.
The form of sheep and goat painting is a dynamic one, which forms at the slanted angles of the art work. This is viewed through the ground setting, which the author has used to achieve a scroll-like format. The sheep and the goat illustrate some nervousness amid naturalism as well as the anti-naturalistic idea. The animals are painted in the real world, but the artist distinguishes them in a form of geometry as well as ink patterns. The sheep and the goat have been set to appear as having their sole roles precisely. However, they form a lateral design at long last. Zhao’s painting was done on silk since there was no invention of the paper yet. The silk that the artist of the time used could be used with alum alongside some glue. This would make the silk to have a high absorbency rate than the modern paper.
The other painting by Zhao Mengfu is the Horse and Groom in the Wind. This ink painting shows the groom and his horse who start pummeled by strong winds. The horse's tresses, the groom's mustache and his garments quiver with immense animation. One practically heard the wind soughing. Zhao’s brush manipulation is fine like hair; however, powerful as an arrow. This resembles the supernatural beings paintings of the time. This gives an assumption that such excellent was beyond the superiority of mere mortals. There were several interpretations of horses at the ancient China. The great scholars and prominent people of the time would link themselves to the mistreated horses. Thus, a thin horse could mean that the scholar discouraged corrupt regime hence would rather be poor. On the other hand, the thin horse implied that an individual who was concerned about the progress of the society consequently, spent most of his time serving them, which led to the poverty.
The Horse and Groom in the Wind was painted using ink and color on the paper, and occupied a dimension (22.7 x 49cm). The Horse and the Groom in the Wind painting is usually interpreted as a reproof to the authorities to regard the talents of their subjects. It also emphasizes that the regime should serve their people with enthusiasm without oppressing them. This was a great painting, which called for change in the Asian continent systems of governance. Thus, the assumption that the art work communicates several ideas is justifiable. This is the reason why Zhao Mengfu was known as a man of talent. The knowledge and wit to use fine horses in painting excellent works was a great metaphor in ancient China, which was seen as a channel of distinguishing men of great talent. The Horse and the Groom in the Wind is painted with a brush combined with the artist’s proficient skill. The brush used in the painting was usually made from pine and soot as well as animal glue or colored ink. The painter used the brushes made from pine since it was a symbol of overcoming difficulties. This was so since pine grows in the rocky soils; it lacks several plants nutrients but still maintains the green color even during the worst winter epochs.
The Horse and Groom in the Wind resides on a scroll and was finally hang in a wall or a museum. Hanging a scroll of painted work enabled the people to have a proper viewing from two to six feet. The paper used was a traditional Xuanzhi paper, which was made from the Tartar wingceltis. There were also other papers, which were made from rice, bamboo, hemp among several others. What is more, Zhao used a highly absorbent paper in this painting as a way of linking it with the straight lines. Zhao’s brush hair in this painting was taken from several animals, for instance, a rabbit, goat as well as a wolf, which were used to make several brushes. This gave the painter a wide choice of the different painting styles he employed. The red small red chops Zhao uses in his painting to show his ownership of the painting. The red chops are made from a soft carved stone, which is then painted with a waxy oil-based ink paste of the vermilion red color. The characters therefore, emerge as an antiquated quality though it is extremely valued in China. These chops are also useful to the historians in tracing the antiquity of the painting. In describing the elevation of the horse in this painting, Zhao differently uses the horses’ features. For instance, the horse’s head represents the king while the eyes symbolize the prime minister. Thus, the notion of authorities fits in the painting description. The head is square while the eyes are beaming. With the horse and the groom in the wind painting, the spine of the horse is strong, giving an impression of an overall kingdom. The horse is also high and erect in the painting since one looks at the height of the horse to judge its might.
Li Gonglin's Five Tribute Horses painting is a (29.3*225cm) work of art with the painting done using ink on paper. This is in comparison with the above Zhao’s works since it is a Japanese painting. The painting was divided into five parts. This symbolizes the five prominent stallions, which was homage to the Chinese court. The territories ranged from China to western frontiers. Each horse has a Chinese or foreign groom at the right hand side as well as the vivid details of the horse’s name, dimension, time, age and the place of origin. Li Gonglin had a special connection to horses hence, painted his works with a total relation to them. The groom is dressed in a red gown while wearing a cap while holding the halter rope in a small loop. This shows that the groom is in control of the horse, which symbolized the regime and the masses. The right hand of the groom is laid on his left hand with the little finger and the forefinger extended. The short rope from the groom is directed towards the bridle of the stallion’s head. This makes the groom suppose foreshortened three-quarters silhouette edgy posture. All these characteristics show that the groom was a redoubtable horseman. Additionally, the groom would control a huge animal with the light touches of a small loop and a light halter grip. It also implies that the horse as a huge animal had fine characteristics of being controlled by him. The horse’s legs as well as hooves were painted using the light ink wash and later smoothened using even strokes.
In comparing Zhao’s paintings with Li Gongling, the displayed themes, structures as well as the materials used were the same. The pine brushes used were also the same though the paintings belonged to different dynasties, Yuan and Song dynasty respectively. The stylistic used in Zhao Mengfu’s painting resembles the Li Gonglin in the manner of interpreting the regime and the horse. For instance, the Horse and the Groom in the Wind has a similar style of interpretation compared to the Five Tribute Horses in Li Gonglin’s painting. The regime of the ancient China was of value to the people; thus these great calligraphers manipulated such animals like the horse to depict the system of the higher authorities. The horses were considered as foreign animals, which the Chinese military imported for the west. This is why Zhao claims that adding shading and much color to the painting would resemble embracing foreign cultures. More so, the chops used and the soft stone carving was the same so as to make the characters in the paintings look more decent. This served as an icon of an ideal China art in the Western countries among other states in the world.
The ancient paintings still exist in some of the museums in foreign countries like the United States of America. This helps to preserve and value the Chinese culture on a large scale basis. Both works also are compared with the responsibility of an individual in the society he resides. This implies that the citizens should not expect the leaders to accomplish every national goal. Instead, it takes the joint effort of all people to participate in the national building and growth. The Yuan painting, as well as the Song painting also depict characteristics of a deep inclination of social-political alliances as well as the value of people’s perspective. For instance, the Horse and Groom in the Wind shows one form of a poor person in the society while the groom is the leader or the top priority person. There is an overall hunch for respect between the two hence the socially poor and the politically prominent individuals must have a thing in common. The hostility depicted in the exploitation of people is what Zhao Mengfu condemns at large. Zhao Mengfu’s painting was regarded as writings since he communicated a lot in the paintings. The fact that he was also a leader made him to observe the exploitation and mistreatment of the leaders to the public.
The power of using the brush in Zhao’s and Gonglin’s painting is adapted to show the extent of a social change society. This is a true assertion based on the fact that Zhao Mengfu was a leader among other individuals who gave credit to Li Gongli’s horse paintings (Mu 98). Zhao also names in his eulogy that the brushes they used was a high form of an extreme representation of the Chinese culture. Both Zhao and Gonglin painted the horses they saw in the stables, which gave their paintings an imperial look. The straightforward lines they use depict a strong form that exists in the Chinese tradition. This is understood as an inner expression of the spirit as well as psychological explanation of how the societal welfare was inclined in their minds. The Yuan and the Song dynasty painting specifically Zhao’s and Li Gonglin’s bring out a better way of confronting the Yuan government. This is based on the issues of bureaucracy and unending corruption.
The choice of using traditional animals was a similarity between Zhao and Gonglin’s painting. This shows that they had an intention to sell and maintain their culture. This was also considered as high esteem to the society whereby the community was not influenced by the West lifestyles. The leaders had a responsibility of maintaining the culture of China. Zhao Mengfu and Li Gonglin were both leaders and men of high-esteem in the society. They chose to employ their culture in their painting so as to pass the deeper message to the citizens that one’s culture was worth preserving.
On the contrary, Zhao and Gonglin’s painting may be perceived differently. For instance, the horse could imply a way of enjoying an aristocratic government. This notion was perceived beyond the normal or native system of governance. The use of the horse therefore, symbolized the stealing of China from the Mongols. In this situation, China as a state was affected by the control exerted on them by foreign powers. The horse, from another point of view, symbolized China as a state oppressing its people. It is evident that for China to have felt the power of foreign control was a bad experience for them, which made them communicate in the form of art. The groom was equated to the Mongols, who by a slight touch and a small loop on their hands had the entire China under their control.
In conclusion, the Asian art had several symbolic meaning of the ancient time. The painting and the calligraphy was chosen by an individual depending on his level of mastery. The common thing about the ancient Chinese paintings was the use of simple and traditional structures, animals and materials in order to do their work. This led to its uniqueness as well as a marker of various dynastic features of the time. Therefore, the Chinese people in general appreciate the ancient art work and preserve it up to date. This was due to the motivation the paintings gave to the upcoming artists.