Flowers on a River: The Art of Chinese Flower-and-Bird Painting, 1368–1911

Masterworks from Tianjin Museum and Changzhou Museum

Showcasing masterpieces of Chinese painting spanning 500 years, this exhibition marks the first showing of works traveling from China to the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. The exhibition premiered at the China Institute Gallery in New York earlier this year, and SBMA is the presentation’s second and final venue in the United States. SBMA offers a reduced presentation to focus on some of the most important works in the original exhibition, featuring 21 individual works and 17 artists.

One of the most important highlights is the premier showing of the 42-foot-long monochromatic handscroll painting, Flowers on a River (1697), by the eminent monk artist Zhu Da (also known as Bada Shanren, 1626–1705). The scroll, painted by Zhu Da at age 72, is a masterpiece of his life journey told through lotus flowers by the water and his final resolve through orchids, bamboo, rocks, and waterfalls in landscape. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art will be the only U.S. venue that enables visitors to view more than 90% of actual artwork.

Organized by the China Institute Gallery, NY.

The exhibition in Santa Barbara was made possible through the generosity of SBMA Women’s Board, Antoinette Gump Amorteguy and Dr. Albert Amorteguy, Natalia and Michael Howe, Norman A. Kurland and Deborah A. David, Siri and Bob Marshall, City of Santa Barbara Events and Festivals Grant Program, and SBMA Friends of Asian Art.

Additional support was provided by Capital Group, Inc. Oriental Lecture Fund, Lady Dasher Sojo Fund, and WT Family Fund.

Free* docent-led gallery tours are conducted daily and meet in Ludington Court near the State Street entrance. Tours provide an engaging opportunity to experience and discuss a variety of works in a relaxed, informal setting.

Tour Availability

11:30 am
January: 12, 13

1 pm
January: 3, 9, 14

*free with the price of admission

Family Resource Center

Blossoms, Brush, & Birds

September 23, 2023 – January 14, 2024
Thursdays, 5 – 7 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 12 – 4 pm

Explore the secret language of birds and flowers. Paint, write, and observe in the manner of master Chinese poet and painter, Bada Shanren, in this interactive installation inspired by Flowers on a River: The Art of Chinese Flower-and-Bird Painting, 1368–1911, Masterworks from Tianjin Museum and Changzhou Museum.

This free, interactive space for all ages is designed for the hands-on exploration of themes resonating from the Museum’s changing special exhibitions or permanent collection. It is staffed by a Museum Teaching Artist with Family Gallery Guides and a variety of art-making materials.

Jazmine Echo Ensemble

Sunday Special Performance
Sunday | November 12, 2023 | 1 pm | FREE

Led by Bonny Wang, this group of UCSB student musicians perform on a variety of Chinese instruments: Erhu (two-string fiddle); Dizi (bamboo flute); Pipa (Chinese lute); Guzheng (Chinese zither); Suona (a double-reed instrument); and percussion playing a selection of popular landscape-inspired compositions as a complement to the exhibition Flowers on a River.

Music to Accompany Flowers on a River

Thursday | January 4, 2024 | 5:30 pm

Pop-Up Solo and Duet Performances by Diandian Zeng on the Guqin (seven-string Chinese zither) and Miranda Jiang on the Guzheng (twenty-one string zither), introduce these two traditional Chinese instruments in repertoires that capture the subtle nuances and emotions of the natural world.

Adult Art Studio Class

The Empty Center: Painting Under the Influence of the Master of the Lotus Garden

Friday | January 12 | 1 – 4pm |
$125 Lotusland | SBMA Members
$150 Non-Members

Artists of all levels are invited to paint in the garden under the heady double influence of Lotusland and Master Painter of the lotus garden, Bada Shanren. Participants gather for a brief introduction to the Chinese tradition of Bird and Flower painting, and then go off to explore the scene and site that most inspires them. Santa Barbara Museum of Art Teaching Artists and Lotusland garden guides are onsite to encourage and instruct. Afterwards share your work in progress over a glass of wine or cup of Jasmine tea on the main lawn.

Materials are provided for those who wish, or bring your own supplies (as long as you can carry them).

This program is a partnership between the Lotusland and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and is inspired by the exhibition Flowers on a River.

Advance reservations are required. Register Here

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