Zhao Mengfu was a prince and descendant of the Song Dynasty's imperial family, and a Chinese scholar, painter and calligrapher during the Yuan Dynasty.
He was recommended by the Censor-in-chief Cheng Jufu to pay an audience with Kublai Khan in 1286 at the Yuan capital of Dadu, but was not awarded an important position in office. His work was however, greatly appreciated later by the Confucian-inspired Yuan Emperor Renzong. Zhao was a member of the "Academy of Worthies".
He was married to Guan Daosheng, who was also an accomplished poet, painter and calligrapher. His rejection of the refined, gentle brushwork of his era in favour of the cruder style of the eighth century is considered to have brought about a revolution that created the modern Chinese landscape painting. He was known for his paintings of horses. His landscapes are also considered to be done in a style that focuses more on a literal laying of ground. Rather than organizing them in a foreground, middle ground, and background pattern he layers middle grounds at various heights to create a sense of depth. This pattern of organization makes his paintings appear very simple and approachable. It was this characteristic that so many people valued about his style.
Zhao Mengfu had several sons with his wife Guan Daosheng. His second son, Zhao Yong, also became a famous painter and calligrapher. He was also the maternal grandfather of Wang Meng, another famous painter. Zhao Mengfu was related to the later Ming dynasty literary figure Zhao Yiguang and his son Zhao Jun.