Throughout his career, Zhang Daqian explored different ways of depicting lotus. Here, he has extended the expressive potential of bravura ink-play pioneered by Xu Wei (1521–1593) and Zhu Da (1626–1705) by adding representational details to abstract patterns of color wash to create an evocative, atmospheric image. He dedicated this work to Lin Yutang with a poetic inscription that reads:
Thanks to the silk-washers who did not pluck them,
They remain in the rain to shelter the mandarin ducks.
(trans. by Shi-yee Liu)
This image is executed in what Zhang referred to as his “splashed-ink” style, which he developed in the mid- 1960s. While this style strongly suggests inspiration from Abstract Expressionism, Zhang never entirely abandoned figuration. He interpreted his formal eclecticism by invoking Laozi: “Laozi said, ‘Procure the essence, and transcend the phenomena.’ This state is hard to attain. Images barely emerge out of an elusive haze-that’s close enough.” This lotus, which reveals itself through a grayish-blue nebula of saturated color, embodies Zhang’s ambitious integration of East and West as well as past and present.