This picture comes to us from long ago and far away.
It is a quiet scene. Two children, a boy and a girl, are bent over a small table, absorbed in playing with the objects on its surface. They are outdoors, playing in the garden of their wealthy parents’ home on an autumn day. The flowers and plants frame them, and give a sense of how small they are.
The whole composition is spare, with just enough details to draw our eyes and interest. The children are painted more realistically; the background is more stylized. The colours and contrast make the children playing the focus of the picture.
The artist is Su Han Ch’en, a Chinese artist who worked during the Sung Dynasty, a time when art was encouraged by the Emperors. Talented painters were sought after and their work collected. Children were a very important subject, and Su Han Ch’en specialized in painting women, children – and peddlers.
One of the reasons we can enjoy Su Han Ch’en’s picture now is because he was born at the right time and in the right place. The emperors of the Sung Dynasty wanted beautiful paintings of their world. Other powerful and prosperous families followed their lead. To get the beautiful pictures they wanted they invested in the support and development of talented artists.
That attitude and that kind of support allowed artists like Su Han Ch’en the time and resources to develop their skills. The skills needed to create a picture like this one. A picture which reaches us across many years and many miles.