|In the late Song and early Yuan dynasties Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 led a reform in ink painting, transforming it from a representative into an expressive art form, thus establishing the tradition of literati painting. This paper examines “Duck on a River Bank,” traditionally attributed to Chen Lin 陳琳 and regarded as the best example of this new movement in ink painting, in order to establish whether the painting was completed by Chen Lin alone, or whether Zhao had a hand in the process. This analysis is the first step in reviewing the connections between Zhao and Chen Lin and how he used such influence over professional painters to gain wider acceptance of his reforms.
Zhao Mengfu used his influential position to introduce into flower-and- bird paintings the idea of using calligraphy in painting, but later this was to gradually change. What began as a plain, back-to-the-ancients style, evolved into sophisticated and colorful renderings of flowers and birds, contrasting greatly with the development of landscape painting. Zhao was unable to broaden his early influence, never achieving the mainstream within flower- and-bird painting circles, and as a result his reforms became merely a branch of ink painting. He could only quietly continue the process of evolving and endlessly refining his particular style of painting.