Palace Museum Labels

Masterpieces of Landscape Painting from the Forbidden City

 

In honor of the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit in Honolulu, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Palace Museum, Beijing (also known as the Forbidden City) have collaborated to share with the public exceptional treasures of art representing the highest ideals of Chinese culture. This exhibition includes fifty-seven paintings from the Palace Museum's extensive collection, by many of the most important artists in China's long history. Of these, six are from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Due to their rarity and fragility, Yuan paintings usually are not allowed to leave the country, and this exhibition is only the second time a special exemption has been granted by the government of the People's Republic of China to allow such early works to come to the United States. At the same time, this is the first occasion that any of the paintings, which are not normally displayed even at the Palace Museum, have traveled internationally.

 

Landscape painting holds a preeminent place in the arts of China, with a history of more than a thousand years. This art form reached its pinnacle during the Yuan period, when some of the greatest luminaries of the time turned to painting as a means to explore their cultural identity in the face of the Mongol invasion. Four artists in particular developed new modes of expression that characterized the age and attained an almost mythical status for later generations as the "Four Masters of Yuan Painting": Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan and Wang Meng. The painting styles developed by the Four Masters achieved a level of authority that made them comparable in East Asia to such Renaissance figures as Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) or Michelangelo (1475-1564), whom they predated by a century. The exhibition includes works by each of the Four Masters, revealing their distinctive individuality and creative genius.

 

In the same way that the Renaissance established the foundation for a florescence of the arts in the following centuries, the Four Masters of Yuan Painting produced an aesthetic vocabulary that was expanded by their inheritors over the course of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The exhibition follows the styles of each of the Four Masters as they were interpreted by later artists, who often took the techniques and compositions of the Yuan period as a starting point for their own innovative contributions to the arts, creating a lineage of scholarly painting that extends into the present day.

 

In addition to the paintings from the Forbidden City, nineteen paintings from the Academy's own renowned collection also are displayed, including famous works such as the 17th- century monk Hongren's The Coming of Autumn. The exhibition not only allows these paintings to be seen with their original sources of inspiration from the Yuan dynasty, but also brings them together with other works by the same artists from the Palace Museum's holdings, in some cases enabling them to be united for the first time in centuries.


Traditionally Attributed to Ma Fen (12th century)

The Hundred Geese

China, Southern Song (1127-1279)-Yuan dynasty (1271-1368),

13th century

Handscroll; ink on paper

Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1927

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2121)

 

A late work in the manner of the Southern Song dynasty Imperial Painting Academy, this handscroll is one of the most remarkable works in that style to have survived into the present day. The artist deftly captures the landscape of southern China through minimal brushstrokes to indicate the surface of the water, combined with richly varied gradations of ink to suggest the misty atmosphere. The painting is distinguished by its careful study of geese in a wide range of activities, from flight to preening and fighting.

 

The depiction of movement evidenced by the scroll is unprecedented in the history of world art, and would not be matched in most other cultures until centuries later. The composition culminates in the center of the scroll with a single goose shown in each stage of flight, as it emerges from the mist, gradually becoming more distinct until it makes a sharp turn to alight upon the water. Grasses and other landscape elements are used as framing devices throughout, dividing the otherwise straightforward scenes into a complex narrative with multiple sections and subsections.

 

After the Southern Song court fell to the Mongols, the artistic styles associated with it were discredited, and fell out of favor over the course of the 13th and 14th centuries. In this sense, The Hundred Geese is both a culmination and a conclusion of Southern Song academic painting. Through the works of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting on display in this section, a new artistic vocabulary was introduced that would forever change the ways in which brush and ink were used in Chinese art.


Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322)

Rock and Bamboo

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)

Hanging scroll; ink on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00016635)

 

Bamboo was a favored subject for scholar-amateur painters, since the brushstrokes used to depict its stalks and leaves were similar to those studied in calligraphy. In addition, since bamboo was flexible and remained green in winter, it had a special significance for the educated class as a symbol of endurance in the face of adversity. This is particularly relevant for Zhao Mengfu, who made the controversial decision to serve the foreign Mongol government and had a long, successful political career.

 

Not only was Zhao the most innovative artist of his generation, but he also was an influential calligrapher, and he advocated a close connection between the techniques of calligraphy and painting. This is evident in both the lush bamboo of the present work, and in the use of "flying white" (feibai ) strokes derived from calligraphy for the rock. This latter technique allowed the hairs of the brush to separate when executing a stroke, so that the surface of the silk was revealed underneath, imparting a sense of vigorous movement and energy.

 

Further combining the scholarly arts, five poems on bamboo based on the same rhyme were added by later writers in the upper register; a representative couplet by Wang Zhi in the left corner reads:

 

In Jiangnan, the verdant shadows linger eternally,

At the ocean's bottom, stems of coral similar to this can be found.

 

 

 


Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322)

Huang Gongwang (1269-1354)

Xu Ben (1335-1393)

Clearing After Sudden Snow

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00147418)

 

One of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Huang Gongwang here depicts the sun emerging from the sky after a sudden storm to shine upon a Buddhist temple nestled in snow-laden mountains. The bold red of the sun, juxtaposed against the otherwise ink-monochrome scene, is a daring innovation. Huang took his subject from a calligraphy inscription written for him by Zhao Mengfu (whose Rock and Bamboo is on display nearby), who might have taught him painting. The inscription, now mounted to the beginning of the scroll, has four large characters reading "Clearing After Sudden Snow" (kuaixue shiqing). This in turn is the title of a famous work by the early calligraphy master Wang Xizhi (303-361), extending the historical resonance of both Zhao's calligraphy and Huang's painting into antiquity.

 

Huang Gongwang exerted a tremendous influence on later generations of painters, beginning in his lifetime. By the late Yuan dynasty, he was already heralded as an important artist, and this can be seen here in the painting by Xu Ben mounted at the end of the scroll after Huang's. Xu took the same subject for his painting and followed Huang's composition of a bold red sun over a monochrome snowscape. At the same time, Xu also introduced different stylistic references (his hills and trees are reminiscent of the Northern Song artist Guo Xi, ca. 1020-ca. 1090) and opened up the left part of the painting to create a greater recession in space.

 


Wu Zhen (1280-1354)

Bamboo and Rock on Slope

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), 14th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00146432)

 

During the Yuan period, artists eschewed the dazzling technical skill and innovative compositional arrangements of the previous Southern Song period, represented by The Hundred Geese on display nearby. Instead, they favored landscapes and other subjects with minimal narrative content that shifted the viewer's attention to variations in ink and brushstrokes. Painting became a means for intimate expression of the subtlest nuances of the movement of the artist's hand, allowing the viewer to share in the moment of creation as the artist gave shape to his inspiration by applying brush to paper.

 

This is perhaps nowhere better expressed than in the bamboo paintings of Wu Zhen, one of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting. Wu abandons the artifices seen in The Hundred Geese and instead uses a limited vocabulary of blunt, forceful brushstrokes and simple washes to convey a rock in the shadow of a stalk of bamboo, with a few tufts of grass along the lower edge. Despite the fact that the painting was done centuries ago, the entire process of its creation can be read on its surface, as if the viewer were standing next to the artist, listening to his breath, watching the coordination of his movements with every touch of the brush.

 


Wu Zhen was a solitary artist of exacting standards, unbending in the face of the larger turmoil that characterized the Yuan period. Unlike the other Four Masters, who actively frequented elite social circles in the urban centers of southern China, he remained aloof, and died with only his self-composed inscription to adorn his tomb. He exerted less influence during his lifetime, and it was only in the century following his death that artists in Suzhou such as Liu Jue and Shen Zhou, whose works can be seen in the following section, carefully studied his work, eventually raising him to canonical standing.

 


Wu Zhen (1280-1354)

Lofty Reclusion Within Mountain and Stream

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), 14th century

Hanging scroll; ink on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00005218)

 

This painting begins with a prominent stand of trees in the center of the lower register, separating the viewer from the scene as if it is spied from afar (this technique was later elaborated by Shen Zhou, whose works are displayed in the next section). Beyond this, a group of simple, thatched huts can be seen, with a path leading from them into the mountains in the distance. Rather than emphasize the narrative by populating the landscape with travelers, the huts and path only imply human presence, shifting the viewer's attention instead to the mountains and trees.

 

Although more complex than Wu's Bamboo and Rock on Slope nearby, this landscape uses a similarly limited vocabulary of direct brushwork, with many of the same techniques. For example, a comparison of the left face of the dominant massif with the rock in Bamboo and Rock on Slope reveals the same texturing in both instances. Elsewhere, the mountains are textured with the long, rope-like strokes that mark Wu's own distinctive variation on "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), one of the most fundamental techniques in scholar-amateur painting from the Yuan period onward.

 


Ni Zan (1301-1374)

Secluded Stream and Cold Pines

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), 14th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00006157)

 

The inscription in the upper register of this painting indicates that it was made as a gift for an acquaintance, named Zhou Xunxue, who was about to depart for a political posting. Far from congratulating his friend, though, Ni encouraged him to abandon his worldly aspirations: 

 

The autumn heat brings many illnesses,

Travelers are reluctant to undertake journeys.

Pines quiver by a secluded stream,

Clear shade covers the courtyard...

Abandon the field and wander freely,

Share a laugh with me!

 

The artist's aversion to political involvement is further emphasized through the stark landscape, devoid of human presence and oppressive in its lack of atmosphere. While the layering of rocks and tonal variations are derived from Ni's elder friend Huang Gongwang (compare this painting, for example, with Huang's Clearing After Sudden Snow nearby), the dry brushwork, angular changes in the momentum of individual strokes (referred to as "folded-band texturing"), and reduction of the composition to only its most essential elements are Ni's own unique contributions to the repertoire of scholar-amateur painting.

 

One of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Ni Zan was born into wealth but forced to abandon his estate under the rising taxes of the failing Mongol government and live on a houseboat. He had a reputation for excessive fastidiousness, and supposedly ordered his servants to wash the trees in his garden daily.


Wang Meng (1308-1385)

Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), dated 1365

Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00013838)

 

One of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Wang Meng was the maternal grandson of Zhao Mengfu (whose Rock and Bamboo is on display at the beginning of this section). Born into a prominent political family, he lived a life of shifting loyalties: he first served the Mongol government, then participated in a rebel government in Suzhou, and emerged a final time to serve the newly established Ming court. However, ultimately he was unable to escape the dangers of the time; he was accused of treason and died in prison while awaiting his sentence.

 

Despite (or perhaps because of) his political involvement, his paintings often take reclusion as their subject. Unlike the other Four Masters, his compositions are distinguished by their complexity, which often is used to convey an undercurrent of oppression. This is accomplished in Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains through an intricate narrative structure, in which the narrative elements are forced to the sides of the paintings, while at the same time the viewer is continually directed back toward the center without a final release from the scene.

 

The building momentum of the twisting mountain forms, and the nervous energy of the texture strokes, would become the hallmarks of Wang Meng's style for later artists, and the numerous reinterpretations of these techniques in the next two sections of the exhibition attest to Wang Meng's enduring influence during the following dynasties.

 


Attributed to Xie Jin (1370-after 1431)

Reading in the Summer Mountains After Dong Yuan

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 15th century

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Purchase, 1952

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(1664.1)

 

By the late Yuan dynasty, a systematization of the individual styles of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting into a tradition that could be practiced by their followers had already begun, particularly in the city of Suzhou. Although Suzhou suffered under the instability at the beginning of the Ming, this process continued into the early 15th century. Wang Meng in particular was active in Suzhou artistic circles, and many scholar-amateur paintings from the early Ming reveal his influence.

 

This can be seen in the present work in the rounded peaks built up from layered elements, the shading to provide volume, the wavering texture strokes full of nervous energy, and the twisting momentum of the composition, which is finally released in the dominant mountain in the distance. At the same time, the painting abandons the oppressive lack of space in Wang Meng's mature work (seen in Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains in the previous section), and has a greater sense of openness, particularly in the expanse of water that occupies the mid-ground.

 

This painting was traditionally attributed to the late Yuan artist Zhao Yuan, a follower of Wang Meng. More recently, it has been re-identified as a work by Zhao's student, the early Ming painter Xie Jin, although the similarities of the inscriptions attributed to both Zhao and Xie in the upper register suggest that they might be later additions. Regardless, the painting can be confidently associated with the style developing from Wang Meng's influence during the early Ming in Suzhou, at the time Xie Jin was active.

 


Du Qiong (1396-1474)

Dreaming of the Daylily Hall

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), ca. 1467

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00131582)

 

The opening of this painting is occupied by a stand of tall pine trees, beyond which a scholar is visible sitting at a table in a simple dwelling. Pine trees were appreciated (by ancient Chinese recluses) for the distinctive sound made when the wind blew through their branches, adding an aural component to the scene. Further on, a small boat can be seen docked on the shore near the house, and a visitor accompanied by his servant carrying a zither (qin) approaches. The qin suggests another element of sound, harmonizing with the pines.

 

The painting is weighted to the right, while an expanse of (unpainted) water opens to the left, with two more boats sailing before hills in the distance. Typical of Du Qiong's work, the mountains in the foreground are made up of rounded forms with "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), utilizing a visual vocabulary established by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting (and referring to earlier southern artists through them).

 

Despite being orphaned at a young age and largely self-taught, Du Qiong rose to become a prominent figure in Suzhou artistic circles and a close friend (and probably teacher) of Shen Zhou, whose works can be found later in this section. He was one of the important early predecessors for the Wu School, which built upon the foundations established by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting to dominate the art world for much of the Ming period.


Du Qiong (1396-1474)

Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 15th century

Handscroll; ink on paper

Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Gustav Ecke in Honor of

Herr Adam von Trott zu Solz, 1954

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2030.1)

 

A more expansive composition than Du's Dreaming of the Daylily Hall on display nearby, this painting begins with a broad view across foreground hills to a river receding into the distance, spanned by a bridge in the mid-ground. A second, closer bridge moves the viewer into a mountain scene; the mountains are characterized by challenging spatial ambiguities as they pass beyond the upper border, culminating with a startling rock formation that extends to the right in a strong diagonal across the painting.

 

This diagonal is balanced a little later on by a second one extending to the left, creating a V-shape in which the main subject of a scholar sits in a pavilion nestled under pine trees (creating an interesting comparison with the similar scene in Dreaming of the Daylily Hall ). After a waterfall tucked under the left-protruding rock formation, the landscape begins to open once again, finally concluding with an expanse of water, beyond which hills are visible in the distance.

 

The rolling hills are depicted in an intentionally archaic manner, using the "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun) associated with early southern landscape painting, which was reintroduced by Zhao Mengfu and the Four Masters of Yuan Painting. At the same time, the dramatic middle section reveals Du's own artistic innovation within an otherwise conservative mode.

 


Liu Jue (1410-1472)

Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1438

Fan; ink on gold paper

Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1957

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2309.1)

 

The center of this painting is dominated by a prominent stand of trees, with loosely outlined trunks and saturated dotting to depict their foliage. The composition is weighted to the left, where a group of simple, thatched buildings sits nestled in the mountains, with a scholar visible in a window. The shape of the peaks was traditionally described as "alum-heads," one of the hallmarks of southern Chinese landscape painting since the 10th century. The line of the mountains continues in a diagonal behind the trees to the right, where their shape is reflected by two smaller rocks. The positive mass of the left is balanced by the negative space of an expanse of water on the right, beyond which are distant hills. This harmonization of positive and negative space, combined with the repetition of form in the rocks, imparts a strong sense of overall stability.

 


The brushwork of the painting derives from Wu Zhen (for example, compare it with Wu's Lofty Reclusion Within Mountain and Stream in the previous section), particularly in the forceful outlining of the trees and the texturing of the mountains. A solitary figure, Wu exerted less influence than the other Four Masters of Yuan Painting during his lifetime; he was re-discovered by Suzhou artists such as Liu Jue and Shen Zhou a century later. This fan serves as important evidence of early interest in Wu Zhen among Suzhou painters, before he was elevated to the status of one of the leaders of Yuan painting by later critics.

 

Liu Jue was a close friend of Shen Zhou, and together with Du Qiong (whose works are on display nearby), one of the key predecessors of the Wu School. This is the earliest surviving work by the artist.

 


Shen Zhou (1427-1509)

Boating on an Autumn River

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1471-1477

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Gift of Mrs. Robert P. Griffing, Jr. in Honor of Her Mother, Mrs. William H. Fraser, 1961

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2994.1)

 

Shen's inscription in the upper right, dated 1477, offers a rare glimpse into the circumstances under which the painting was made. According to the artist, he first painted the work six years earlier (at which time it was unsigned); upon being shown it again, he added the distant mountains depicted with washes in the background.

 

Following his inscription is a note of characteristically poignant personal significance:

 

Setting aside the brush, I stepped outside; lamplight quietly filled the courtyard, while the frosty moon chilled my guest's robes.

 

In this painting, two fishermen share a private conversation; typical of Shen's compositions, the viewer is separated from the scene by the foreground landscape elements, as if spying upon an intimate moment. The distinctive texturing of the rocks, and the twisting momentum of the ascending mountains, show the influence of Wang Meng (compare this painting, for example, to Wang's Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains in the previous section). At the same time, despite the fact that this is an early work, Shen's own innovation can be seen in the strong verticality of the scene, with a central focus of stillness in the quiet water surrounded by energetic brushwork pushing outward to the sides of the painting.

 


Shen Zhou (1427-1509)

Conversing Under a Pine in the Moonlight

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 15th century

Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00155215)

 

Although the subject is an intimate one of two scholars sharing a conversation while they sit next to a riverbank, Shen has expanded the composition across two scrolls, giving the scene a sense of monumentality. The artist's poem in the upper left reads:

 

A rock tableau projects neatly, the water's moss is deep,

Tall trees are like clouds, dropping their emerald shade.

Two elders meet in a place for sophisticated conversation,

Only the mountains and water share their thoughts.

 

Shen had broad artistic interests and was versed in a wide variety of different techniques. Although the vocabulary of brushstrokes developed by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting emphasized subtle nuances of brush movement and ink gradations that were best expressed on paper, here the artist has instead chosen silk. Adjusting to his medium, Shen used different tonalities of even washes, with carefully executed, meticulous brushstrokes for details. At the same time, his scholar-amateur background can be seen in the "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun) of the cliff on the far shore and in the subtle palette.

 


Shen Zhou is traditionally considered the founder of the Wu School, which developed in Suzhou upon the foundations established by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting and embodied the highest ideals of scholar-amateur art. At the same time, the divisions between "professional" and "amateur" were less rigid during his time than they would become later (especially under the influence of Dong Qichang, whose works can be seen in the next section), and Shen not only collected works by leading professional artists from other schools, but also freely used different styles when they were appropriate to a particular painting, as seen here.

 


Shen Zhou (1427-1509)

Watching the Rain in the Western Hills

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 15th century

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00054752-1/2)

 

Shen Zhou was a remarkably diverse artist, and even a cursory look at the four paintings by him in this exhibition reveals significant differences between them. These differences are nowhere more evident than between this painting and Conversing Under a Pine in the Moonlight, on display nearby. One is grand in scale, the other intimate; one is on silk, with the even washes and careful detail appropriate to that medium, while the other is on paper, with substantial variations in ink tonalities and degrees of saturation; the brushwork of one is reserved, the other highly expressive.

 

Shen's prodigious talent made him the leading artist of his generation and caused him to be singled out by later historians as the founder of the Wu School. His hometown of Suzhou (which was called in ancient times Wu, from which the school's name derives) had been a center for the arts since the Yuan period, when it was frequented by such luminaries as Huang Gongwang, Ni Zan, and Wang Meng (works by each of whom can be found in the previous section). Although the city experienced difficulties during the early Ming, its artistic currents were continued by such artists as Du Qiong and Liu Jue (whose works are on display nearby), culminating with Shen's own consolidation of the diverse streams of Suzhou painting into a tradition with great power and cultural authority. Through Shen and his students like Wen Zhengming, who wrote the calligraphy frontispiece title of this painting, the Wu School would come to dominate the art world for much of the Ming period, with an influence that continued into later centuries.

 


Shen Zhou (1427-1509)

Listening to a Spring

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 15th century

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00068993)

 

Shen takes advantage of the long horizontal handscroll format to depict a riverscape, with water serving as a unifying element through the painting. At the same time, the artist draws inspiration from traditional Chinese garden design, using landscape elements to divide the composition into three different scenes. Typical of his style, the viewer is separated from the opening sequence by a slope with a protruding rock, beyond which two fishermen chat on small skiffs (compare this to the similar motif in Boating on an Autumn River, on display nearby). The viewer remains apart from the scene as the scroll progresses past a pavilion and a path, both of which are partially obstructed by the foreground rocks. The second scene shows a figure crossing the river on a narrow embankment, moving towards a bamboo grove of which we see only a tantalizing glimpse. The foreground finally opens in the third scene, inviting the viewer to join a scholar relaxing as he admires a waterfall.

 

The painting uses a palette of light colors typical of the Wu School, balancing the cool blues and greens of trees, bamboo, and grass with the warm light browns, yellows, and the striking red robe of the final figure, which stands out in the overall composition. Both the accumulation of rock formations to build up the landscape, and the layering of "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun) and dotting over a base of ink washes, ultimately derive from Huang Gongwang, but at the same time this painting reveals Shen's transformation of the techniques developed by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting into his own distinctive style.

 

 

 


Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

After Zhao Mengfu's "Orchid and Rock"

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Handscroll; ink on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00061417)

 

According to Wen's inscription on the left, this handscroll was inspired by a similar work by Zhao Mengfu; the likely model survives as a rubbing, now in the Palace Museum's collection (reproduced here). Wen studied Zhao's paintings and theories closely, and they influenced him throughout his long career. The compositions of the two works are exceedingly close, with nearly identical elements in a similar arrangement.  At the same time, the expressiveness of Zhao's brushwork was somewhat lost when it was translated into a stone carving.

 

However, Zhao Mengfu's Rock and Bamboo in the previous section allows us to further the comparison. We can see that Wen took the same technique of using calligraphic "flying white" (feibai ) strokes for his rock, in which the hairs of the brush were allowed to separate as the stroke was executed to reveal the paper underneath, suggesting energetic movement. Although Wen's bamboo is less luxuriant than Zhao's in Rock and Bamboo, and Zhao uses paler ink, a similarity can also be seen in the structure of the bamboo in both paintings, particularly in the fanned arrangement of the downward facing leaves (also evident in the rubbing).

 

While a comparison of the rubbing with Wen's painting shows it to be a close copy, overall the brushwork is confident and spontaneous, individualizing the work to the artist's own talented hand.


Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

The Seven Junipers

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1532

Handscroll; ink on paper

Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1952

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(1666.1)

 

Like After Zhao Mengfu's "Orchid and Rock" on display nearby, Wen identifies his inspiration for the present painting as Zhao Mengfu, whose Rock and Bamboo is included in the previous section. While no examples survive by Zhao that could have served as a model, Zhao's influence can be seen in the calligraphic brushwork, for example, the extensive use of dry brushwork to create a variation on the "flying white" (feibai ) technique, in which the paper remains visible between the individual hairs of the brush.

 


The subject of the scroll is seven ancient juniper trees at a Daoist temple outside of Suzhou, Wen's hometown. The trees were initially planted nearly a thousand years before Wen was born, but by his lifetime only three of the original trees remained, the other four having been replaced in the 12th century (still making them nearly four hundred years old). The number seven has a special significance in Daoism, and the trees were intended to represent the seven stars of Ursa Major, one of the most sacred constellations in Chinese astrology.

 

The three original trees were also painted by Wen's teacher, Shen Zhou, providing an immediate precedent for the present work (different versions of Shen's original exist). Like Wen, Shen eliminated background elements in order to focus exclusively on the trees. Wen's innovation can be seen in his radical cropping of the subject, his dynamic brushwork, and his complex intertwining of the trees to create a continuous narrative. The daring composition has caused this to be heralded by many later critics as one of the most remarkable paintings within the artist's extensive surviving repertoire.

 

 


Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

Landscape After Ni Zan

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00169874)

 

Ni Zan was a frequent visitor to Suzhou during the late Yuan period, and his style remained influential among Suzhou artists in the following centuries. Here, Wen interprets the formulaic composition for which Ni became best known in his mature period, a shore in the foreground with an empty pavilion and sparse trees, a vast expanse of water occupying the mid-ground, and a background of hills receding into the distance.

 

At the same time, the fan is more complex than would be typical for Ni Zan (for example, compare it with Ni's Secluded Stream and Cold Pines in the previous section). The gold background adds a decorative element that would have been contrary to Ni's sparse aesthetic, and while the brushwork uses the techniques associated with the Yuan master, the gold paper was less absorbent, and hence the ink is more saturated than would normally be expected.

 

Wen Zhengming was Shen Zhou's most prominent student. As a young man, he prepared diligently for the government service examinations, but failed no less than ten times before he was finally granted a position as Academician in Attendance. He was no more successful at this, and after three years in the capital he finally abandoned his political aspirations. Returning to Suzhou, he dedicated the rest of his long life to the arts, becoming the leading proponent of the Wu School at the height of this school's influence.
Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

Landscape With Cypress and Waterfall

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan; ink and color on gold paper

Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1957

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2307.1)

 

The composition of this fan is weighted to the left, where a waterfall sits among craggy rocks. Gnarled cypress trees, with Wen's characteristic "pepper dotting" for their foliage, extend from the rocks towards the center, where two scholars sit inside a thatched hut extending into the water on pylons. A river meanders into the distance on the right, crossed by a bridge joining further dwellings on either bank before it disappears into the hills. The painting uses the warm-cool palette common for the Wu School (for example, compare it with Shen Zhou's Listening to a Spring, also in this section); the "blue-green" mode of the landscape is an intentional archaism, suggesting the influence of Zhao Mengfu (and through him earlier Tang and Song dynasty models), in whom the artist had an enduring interest.

 

This fan is typical of Wen's work after he returned from a less-than-successful attempt at government service in the capital and started to dedicate his life to painting in the 1530s. Like many scholar-amateur works, the inscription indicates that it was made as a gift.

 

        


Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

Moonlit Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan; ink on gold paper

Gift of Mrs. Theodore A. Cooke, 1957

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2304.1)

 

Like Ni Zan before him, Wen was known for his fastidiously conservative personality. This is humorously recounted in a well-known anecdote in which a group of friends conspired to stow away beauties on a pleasure cruise. When the boat stopped in the middle of the lake and the women suddenly appeared, Wen fell into a fit of screaming, threatening to jump off into the lake until his friends finally allowed him to leave on a raft.

 

This "integrity" is expressed in Wen's painting by the meticulously careful brushwork of his "fine" style, in which the large majority of his surviving works are done (for example, see Landscape with Cypress and Waterfall on display nearby). At the same time, like his teacher Shen Zhou, Wen also worked in a "coarse" style with loose, expressive brushwork (Shen's "coarse" style can be seen in Watching the Rain in the Western Hills, also in this section). The artist's "coarse" works like this fan are comparatively rare and hence highly prized.

 

A gentleman wanders through a grove of roughly outlined trees, the foliage of which is articulated through spontaneous, casually placed dots that are characteristic of Wen's technique. Light washes suggest a humid summer evening bathed in moonlight, with the moon indicated in the upper right. The painting is a late work by the artist and was probably done in the last decade of his life.


Wen Zhengming (1470-1559)

Snowy Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00100919)

 

Wen here creates an otherworldly landscape of crystalline hills blanketed in snow. The highlight of the narrative is a cave entrance with stalactites hanging from its roof in the mid-ground and a traveler emerging from its interior. A regular feature in Chinese landscape painting, caves had a special meaning; it was believed that certain caves led to mystical subterranean worlds called "cavern heavens" (dongtian), magical alternate realms with their own sun, moon, and stars, populated by divine beings. According to some theories, cavern heavens could only be seen by those with special sight, and it was possible to wander through one without ever realizing it was there.

 

The spiritual nature of the landscape is further indicated by the rooftops of a temple just visible to the left behind the cave entrance (temples often were located in places of spiritual significance like the supposed entrances to cavern heavens), beyond which distant peaks recede in the background.

 


Like Conversing Under a Pine in the Moonlight by Wen's teacher, Shen Zhou (also in this section), this painting is on silk rather than paper, which was suited to a different technical vocabulary of brushstrokes than that which normally defined the scholar-amateur painting of the Wu School, deriving from the Four Masters of Yuan Painting. Instead of "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), Wen instead used light washes and highlights of "axe-cut" texturing (fupi cun) to delineate the shapes of the rocks beneath the snow. At the same time, the strong verticality of the composition, with the landscape elements pushing out to the sides of the narrow borders, is a special feature of the Wu School (and can be seen in its incipient form in Shen Zhou's Boating on an Autumn River, on display nearby).

 

 

 


Chen Daofu (1483-1544)

Cloudy Mountains

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00146810)

 

A later inscription at the end of this scroll aptly chose a famous passage by the Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei (699-759) to describe the painting:

 

The river flows beyond heaven and earth,

The forms of the mountains are between substance and

nothingness.

 

One of the most idiosyncratic Suzhou painters, Chen Daofu is believed to have studied painting with either Shen Zhou (for example, compare the present work to Shen's Watching the Rain in the Western Hills, also in this section) or Wen Zhengming. However, when Wen was asked about him, he said: "In both calligraphy and painting, he has his own school and goes his own way; he is not my pupil." Chen's bold style drew both admiration and bemusement from Wen and his other contemporaries.

Despite his Wu School training in the techniques derived from the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Chen seems to have turned away from the methods of his teachers as he came to maturity as an artist, developing instead his own highly individual manner. The brushwork of the painting is exceedingly loose, bordering on pure abstraction. This is particularly evident in the last section, where large areas of paper are left unpainted, and a few splashes of ink, suggesting a faint landscape with rooftops emerging from the mist, punctuate the conclusion.

 


Wen Boren (1502-1575)

Snowy Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 1560

Hanging scroll; ink on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00097999)

 

Wen Boren was the nephew of Wen Zhengming and inherited his uncle's distinctive style. At the same time, a comparison of his uncle's painting on the same subject nearby reveals both similarities as well as significant differences. Both paintings have a standard tripartite division into foreground, mid-ground, and background. The foreground of each begins with a stock scene of travelers crossing a bridge, although Wen Zhengming depicts a single traveler to establish a sense of isolation in the quiet, snow-covered landscape, while his nephew depicts a caravan that continues into the mid-ground.

 

Both paintings mark the transition between the foreground and mid-ground with similarly painted trees that create a horizontal wall extending to the left and right edges. Wen Zhengming has a fully developed mid-ground in which is placed the primary interest of the narrative; on the other hand, the mid-ground of his nephew's painting is rather abbreviated and continues the narrative of the foreground, placing the emphasis instead on the tall mountains of the background. While both paintings fill the composition to the edges, Wen Zhengming uses a narrow frame to create a strong verticality. Wen Boren's painting, on the other hand, captures a similar effect through the very different technique of shortening the mid-ground and elongating the background.


Wen Boren (1502-1575)

Woodcutter in a Valley

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1560

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00047981)

 

The artist's inscription in the upper right describes woodcutters going deep into the mountains, singing "high songs that shake the trees" as the "wind blows grasses in the green valley." The lively stream, the waterfall, and the pines add further elements of sound (the wind makes a distinctive noise when it blows through pine needles that was appreciated by Chinese recluses). At first glance, the only human presence appears to be the empty hut on the right, but a closer examination reveals two tiny figures just visible on a path behind the pines to the left.

 

Over the course of the 16th century, the Wen family came to dominate painting in Suzhou, first through Wen Zhengming and then through his nephew Wen Boren, who came to be the leading artist of the family in the following generation. The Wen style built upon the techniques associated with the Four Masters of Yuan Painting and developed by Shen Zhou, adding their own distinctive features. The fine, tensile brushstrokes and delicate dotting, the harmonization of warm browns and cool greens, and the horizontal line of trees across the painting to mark the transition from foreground to background (seen also in the snow landscapes by both Wen Zhengming and Wen Boren on display nearby) are all characteristic of the Wen family tradition.

 


Wen Boren (1502-1575)

The Red Cliff

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan; ink and color on gold paper

Purchase, 1967

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(3507.1)

 

This painting illustrates the First Red Cliff Ode by Su Shi (1036-1101), written upon a visit to the Red Cliff in 1082. The Red Cliff was the site of a famous battle in the winter of the year 208, and it provided an opportunity for Su, a renowned poet, to compose a thoughtful verse on the nature of time that would become known as one of his greatest masterpieces:

 

Our single reed of a boat floated where it would, gliding on ten thousand leagues of haze. The vastness was as if we had taken the reins of emptiness and rode on the wind, without knowing where we were headed. Adrift as if we had left behind the world and stood alone, it seemed as though we were about to grow feathers and take immortal flight. The delight of our drinking climaxed, and we beat out a rhythm on the boat as we sang.

 

The poem was added by the calligrapher Peng Nian (1505-1566) in the upper right, in the miniscule "fly's head" calligraphy associated with the Wen family. Although the format is a small fan, the conception of the painting is monumental, with the towering Red Cliff heavily weighting the composition to the upper left, beneath which Su (distinguished by his red robes) and his companions drift. The inscription, far from being mere documentation of the subject, is an essential compositional element, providing necessary balance to the cliff.


Wen Boren (1502-1575)

Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1564

Fan; ink and color on gold paper

Gift of Shang H. and Nell Ho, 1989

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(5911.1)

 

Like Wen's The Red Cliff on display nearby, this fan bears a poem added by the calligrapher Peng Nian (1505-1566):

 

If the old man does not retire to a

famous mountain to grow old,

Then where should he go to finish this life?

White stones jut out from the autumn leaves,

Foolishly, I sleep on the porch and dream

that my soul is pure.

 

The scene depicts a typical landscape in the Suzhou region, with a reclusive gentleman sitting in a thatched hut nestled under an overhanging cliff in the lower right. A visitor approaches on the left, crossing the first of two bridges.

 

While Wen Boren did not often directly reference Yuan artists, the influence of Wang Meng can be seen in the layered texturing of short, energetically curving brushstrokes for the main hill, which is constructed from a complex arrangement of rounded forms. The trees, which echo the dominant mountain, also take their twisting shapes and use of red accents from Wang Meng, although the fine, tensile lines of the brushwork throughout the painting reveal the extent to which Yuan styles were transformed by the Wen family tradition during the 16th century.

 


Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Landscape

China, Ming dynasty, 16th century

Fan; ink and color on gold paper

Purchase, 1967

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(3506.1)

 

Dong Qichang is best known for his theories rigidly dividing the history of Chinese painting into separate lineages of (inferior) professional and (superior) scholar-amateur artists. However, like Zhao Mengfu before him, Dong took advantage of his political service and his reputation as a scholar to gain access to the finest art collections of the time, and throughout his career he strove for a synthesis of different historical styles into a unified tradition.

 

This can be seen even in early works such as this fan, which can be dated by the artist's seal to about the turn of the 17th century. At the time, Dong was an active collector and acquired many major works by earlier artists. The composition is built up from layered geometric forms, in a technique deriving from early landscape painting of the Tang dynasty (618-907). At the same time, the rounded shapes of the hills, the balance of a positive mass weighted to the right with an expanse of water and hills receding in the distance on the left, and the use of distinctive brush techniques like "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun) all reveal the influence of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting (and through them earlier 10th-century southern landscape painting).

 

Dong's own artistic skill and unique vision can be seen in his ability to seamlessly join these diverse elements into a coherent landscape, the success of which is augmented by but not dependent on an awareness of the painting's art-historical references.

 

        


Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Landscape After Ni Zan

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Fan; ink on gold paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00008711)

 

This is a rare instance of a fan painting that still preserves its original mounting on wooden ribs. This type of folding fan, generally thought to have been introduced from Japan (earlier Chinese hand fans did not fold), was popular throughout the Ming dynasty, as early examples like the work by Liu Jue in the previous section show. At the same time, fan paintings were not always mounted, and artists sometimes used the shape to explore its unique compositional challenges without any intended practical function. Occasional works, fans often bear inscriptions indicating that they were made as a gift.

 

Dong not only was a skilled painter but also an important theorist and art historian. Consequently, his works usually show an intense historical interest, in this case in one of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Ni Zan (although like Wen Zhengming's fan in the manner of Ni Zan in the previous section, Dong's fan also contradicts Ni's austere aesthetic in its use of gold paper). In this sense, the artist's inscription is rich with unintentional irony: 

 

Ni Zan was not accustomed to being conscious of art history in his landscapes, and as soon as I started to work in his manner, my ten fingers became inspired.


Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Landscape After Huang Gongwang

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1616

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00137349)

 

Of all the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Dong Qichang was particularly influenced by Huang Gongwang, whose work he considered to be the pinnacle of the scholar-amateur tradition. Dong included in his collection Huang's magnum opus, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, to which the present work bears numerous similarities, both in brushwork and composition (for example, compare with Wang Hui's close copy of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains later in this section). Characteristic of Huang Gongwang, the painting layers dark over light, and dry over wet ink, with a monochrome palette and an abbreviated narrative that place the entire emphasis of the painting on variations in brushwork, capturing the movements of the artist's hand in the act of creation.

 

At the same time, Dong identifies the inspiration for this work not as Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains in his own collection, but rather as another of Huang Gongwang's paintings (now unknown) that he was able to examine due to his political connections:

 

At the time I was in Mingzhou, and heard that the Minister had a painting by Huang Gongwang in his collection. I visited him in order to examine it, and made this abbreviated imitation.


Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Blue and Green Landscape After Zhao Mengfu

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00187522)

 

During the Ming dynasty, the use of mineral pigments such as malachite and lapis lazuli to create jewel-toned "blue-and-green" landscapes was closely associated with Zhao Mengfu, and Zhao's influence can also be seen in such works as Wen Zhengming's Landscape with Cypress and Waterfall in the previous section. Consequently, the blue-and-green mode of landscape painting communicated a sense of intentional archaism (with the cultural authority this conveyed). At the same time, the blue-and-green style was already ancient by Zhao Mengfu's time, and Zhao's own blue-and-green paintings referenced earlier works from the Tang (618-907) and Northern Song (960-1127) periods.

 

Dong's innovation can be seen in the use of layered geometric forms to construct the mountains and in the balance of blues and greens with browns to establish a warm-cool palette (this last feature derives from the earlier Wu School color schemes seen in the last section). Paper was a more typical ground for scholar-amateur works than silk, and the use of silk here prevented the expressive brushwork seen in other of Dong's paintings, like Landscape After Huang Gongwang on display nearby. At the same time, while Wen Zhengming freely utilized brush techniques better suited for silk, such as "axe-cut" texturing (fupi cun), in his Snowy Landscape in the previous section, Dong associated these techniques with "professional" painting that he considered to be beneath the scholar-amateur, and here he relies instead on a more restrained variation on the texturing and dotting techniques developed by the Four Masters of Yuan Painting.

 


Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Landscape After Dong Yuan and Fan Kuan

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1633

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00008340)

 

Dong's inscription on this painting states:

 

South of the Yangzi River many works by major artists of the Yuan dynasty are preserved, while in the northern capital many works by major artists of the Northern Song dynasty can be found. During my second visit to the capital in the renshen year (1632), I examined a large number of paintings, and I began to combine the styles of Dong Yuan and Fan Kuan.

 

Dong Yuan (ca. 900-962) and Fan Kuan (ca. 990-ca. 1030) were the leading representatives of regional traditions (respectively) of southern and northern painting during the 10th and 11th centuries. In this work, Dong Qichang attempts a synthesis of their styles (and by extension, of the broad regional divisions in early Chinese landscape painting). The "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), different tonalities of saturated dotting, rounded hill-forms, and the "alum" shape of the dominant massif derive from the southern tradition of Dong Yuan, which was an important source for the Four Masters of Yuan Painting.

 

On the other hand, the broad view, monumentality, and structural stability of the composition take their inspiration from the northern tradition of Fan Kuan (this is not to be confused with Dong Qichang's theories on the Northern and Southern Schools, which were lineages of professional and scholar-amateur artists modeled after the Northern and Southern Schools of Chan Buddhism and not based on regional traditions).


Lan Ying (1585-ca. 1664)

Landscapes After Old Masters

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1633

Album of ten leaves; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00147279)

 

From the ancient Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) capital of Hangzhou, Lan Ying was one of the leading professional artists of the 17th century. At the same time, he was influenced by the scholar-amateur style promoted by Dong Qichang (whose works are on display nearby), and often took the Four Masters of Yuan Painting and other literati artists as his models. As a professional artist working in modes associated with a different social class, Lan Ying presented a challenge for Dong Qichang and his circle, whose comments on Lan's paintings sometimes reveal a mixture of admiration for his technique with discomfort concerning his professional status.

 

Each leaf of this album is in the manner of a different old master, including such paragons of the scholar-amateur tradition in Dong Qichang's theories as Zhao Mengfu and each of the Four Masters (can you tell which artist inspired each leaf by comparing them with the originals in the first section?). At the same time, one of the paintings is modeled after the Song-dynasty artist Li Tang (1050s-after 1130), who was a professional artist working for the Imperial Painting Academy, and hence not an appropriate model for Dong Qichang's scholar-amateur lineage (the leaf after Li Tang can be distinguished by its use of the "axe-cut" texturing stroke, or fupi cun). In this manner, Lan Ying's album reveals a reality of complex artistic interaction between "professional" and "scholar-amateur" styles during the 17th century that belies Dong Qichang's attempts to establish clearly separated lineages.

 


Lan Ying (1585-ca.1664)

The Peach Blossom Spring

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 17th century

Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Hutchinson, 1990

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(6046.1)

 

Lan Ying lived to see the traumatic collapse of the Ming dynasty in the 1640s and the second time that China was completely conquered by an invading foreign power, the Manchus (the first time was the Mongol invasion of the Yuan period). This makes the subject of the painting, the Peach Blossom Spring, especially poignant. According to the story, a fisherman stumbled across a stream flanked by blossoming peach trees, and followed it to discover an isolated village that had fled from war more than a century earlier to establish a utopian community. The fisherman returned home and informed the local government, but, when he tried to go back, he could not find the stream with the peach blossoms a second time.

 

The foreground is dominated by peach trees in full bloom, beneath which the fisherman sails on a small boat through a narrow valley. Tall peaks in the background increase the sense of isolation, with a temple visible through a gap in the mountains suggesting the community he will discover (and the spiritual idealism it represents). The blue and green palette is an intentional archaism that adds to the mythical feeling of the scene; by Lan's time, this blue-and-green mode was most closely associated with Zhao Mengfu, and the artist's inscription indicates that the painting was inspired by this Yuan master.


Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658)

Recluse Amid Forest and Spring

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1638

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00146921)

 

The artist's poem in the upper right reads:

 

Fate follows the withered leaves; who can bear this?

Before my eyes, within the autumn mountains

the rain suddenly falls.

It cannot be that there are no recluses

amidst the forests and springs,

When we meet, we will linger on the canal.

 

The subject of the painting closely follows that of the poem, showing two figures walking away from each other, but turning their heads back and lingering as if they cannot bear to part. The figures are delicately outlined with fine brushstrokes and minimal shading. Dry ink predominates, with pale washes for the bridge and distant hills, together with darker outlining, and saturated ink for dotting and vegetation in the foreground, added as highlights. This, together with the broad areas of unpainted space and the almost total lack of atmosphere (despite the mention of rain in the poem), suggest the Yuan painter Ni Zan as a primary source of inspiration (compare with Ni's Secluded Stream and Cold Pines in the first section).

 

Xiang Shengmo was born into a prominent family, and his grandfather amassed one of the leading art collections of the late Ming dynasty. Dong Qichang (whose works are on display nearby) served as the family's tutor early in his career, and his theories emphasizing brush and compositional techniques deriving from the Four Masters of Yuan Painting were influential in the formation of Xiang's style.

 

 


Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658)

Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 17th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00100652)

 

Like Xiang's Recluse Amid Forest and Spring on display nearby, this painting takes the technique of the Yuan painter Ni Zan (whose Secluded Stream and Cold Pines is in the first section) as its subject. Over the course of the Ming dynasty, Ni's style, and that of the other Four Masters of Yuan Painting, was gradually transformed. For example, the fan paintings after Ni by both Wen Zhengming and Dong Qichang in this exhibition use gold paper, resulting in different ink tonalities and a greater sense of luxury than would be found in Ni's own works. However, while Xiang studied Wen Zhengming early in his career, his family provided him with access to a large collection of original Yuan-dynasty works. Consequently, both the present scroll and Recluse Amid Forest and Spring show a greater fidelity to Ni's distinctive brushwork and aesthetic sense than that found in most other Ming-dynasty paintings after this Yuan master.

 

This can be seen in the austere, dry brushstrokes, the large sections of unpainted paper that impart a lack of atmosphere, and the subtle variations in ink saturation and tone that characterize both of Xiang's paintings in this exhibition. At the same time, the continuous recession from foreground to background, as well as the featuring of a large hill that dominates the space, extending beyond the left border, differ from Ni's typical arrangement of a clearly distinguished foreground and background separated by a mid-ground stream. This reveals that far from being a merely derivative artist, Xiang effectively internalized the techniques associated with Ni Zan into a style that was uniquely the artist's own.

 


Hongren (1610-1664)

Ink Landscape

After the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1660

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00153392)

 

Despite its small scale, this handscroll is monumental in its conception. A late work by the artist, it is a tour-de-force exercise in the distinctive brush and compositional techniques of each of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting (see the first section for comparative examples by each of the Four Masters).

 

The opening section has the dry brushstrokes with angular shifts in momentum (called "folded-band" texturing or zhedai cun), minimal washes with broad sections of unpainted paper, and sparse trees that characterize the style of Ni Zan. A pavilion on a high promontory marks a change to architectonic hills built up from layers of squarish rock formations, given mass by pale ink washes, over which are painted long lines of "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), indicating the influence of Huang Gongwang. After a waterfall, a bridge across a stream begins the third section, where rounded hills with energetic, wavering texture strokes and dense vegetation suggest the manner of Wang Meng. Finally, the scroll ends with the densely saturated washes and heavy outlining that are features of Wu Zhen, adding a fisherman's skiff to present one of Wu's favorite symbols of reclusion.

 

While Hongren reveals a thorough mastery of each of the Four Masters' styles, they are blended together seamlessly into a coherent composition, with the artist's own distinctive hand serving as a unifying element throughout.

 

        

        


 

Hongren (1610-1664)

The Coming of Autumn

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), 17th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Gift of the Wilhelmina Tenney Memorial Collection, 1955

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2045.1)

 

A landmark in the history of Chinese art, this remarkable scroll is universally considered the finest surviving painting by Hongren, one of the leading scholar-amateur artists of the 17th century. The sparse, dry brushstrokes, with angular shifts in momentum traditionally called "folded band" texturing (zhedai cun) take their inspiration from the Yuan painter Ni Zan (whose Secluded Stream and Cold Pines can be seen in the first section). Similarly, the sparse vegetation, broad areas of unpainted paper, and lack of atmosphere also derive from this artist.

 

On the other hand, the construction of the mountains from layers of squared rock formations, given mass by light washes, find their source in the techniques of Huang Gongwang, who was Ni's elder contemporary and friend. Hongren also took the manners of Ni Zan and Huang Gongwang for the first two sections of his handscroll from the Palace Museum on display nearby, making for an interesting comparison between the two works.

 

While the brushwork and compositional techniques of the painting originate from these two Yuan masters, the painting has a monumentality that differs from either Ni or Huang and instead reflects the growing interest in earlier Northern Song-dynasty (960-1127) landscapes that developed over the course of the 17th century.

 


Wang Shimin (1592-1680)

Landscape After Ni Zan

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1627

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00194676)

 

Under the influence of Dong Qichang, who elevated the Four Masters of Yuan Painting to canonical status in his lineage of scholar-amateur painters, Ni Zan was widely studied during the 17th century. Wang Shimin was a close associate of Dong Qichang's, and in fact this painting bears an inscription by Dong in the upper right, encouraging any scholar who aspired to become an artist to practice Ni Zan's style carefully.

 

However, a comparison of the present work with other paintings in the manner of Ni Zan by Wang's contemporaries Xiang Shengmo and Hongren (who similarly were both influenced to varying degrees by Dong Qichang) also in this section reveals significant differences of interpretation. Both Xiang and Hongren emphasized Ni's extremely subtle, dry brushwork, although Hongren in particular transformed Ni's "folded band" texturing (zhedai cun) technique in The Coming of Autumn into delicate outlining for the mountains. On the other hand, the paintings by both Xiang and Hongren introduce innovative new compositions without precedent in Ni's surviving paintings.

 

In contrast, Wang Shimin's composition is conservative, following Ni's formulaic "two shores separated by a stream." At the same time, the brushwork is significantly heavier, with greater contrast between light and dark tones, and more extensive use of texturing. The construction of Wang's rock formations also differs from that found in Ni's original paintings and instead shows the influence of Dong Qichang's technique, in which geometric forms were assembled into larger masses (for example, see Dong's early Landscape fan painting from the Academy's collection in this section).


Wang Shimin (1592-1680)

Landscapes Inspired by Du Fu’s Poetry

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1665

Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00004873)

 

Each leaf of this album takes its inspiration from a poetic passage by the Tang dynasty (618-907) poet Du Fu (712-770), who by this time was recognized as one of the greatest authors in Chinese history. For example, the first leaf bears the following two lines in the upper right, in elegantly stylized clerical script (lishu):

 

Blue water comes from afar,

descending in a thousand streams,

Jade mountains are aligned on high,

their paired peaks cold.

 

Although Wang Shimin is generally perceived as a conservative artist, this album is remarkable not only for its lyricism and exceptional technical accomplishment, but also for its bold use of color in innovative combinations. This might in part have resulted from the fact that the album was made as a gift for Wang's nephew; the intimate personal connection perhaps encouraged the artist to take special care in its making, and also allowed him greater creative freedom to experiment with color than usual.

 

The album was in the collection of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795), and bears numerous imperial seals, including a large one in the upper center of the first leaf reading "Treasure Examined by His Highness Qianlong (Qianlong yulan zhibao). Since this seal extends to the mounting, we know that the present mounting for the album dates back to at least the 18th century.

 

 


Wang Jian (1598-1677)

Landscape After Wang Meng

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1656

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00194677)

 

Over the course of the 17th century, Dong Qichang and his circle established an orthodox lineage of scholar-amateurs that were to be emulated by aspiring artists, with the Four Masters of Yuan Painting at their pinnacle. As a result, landscape painting became increasingly art-historical, and artists began to take as their primary subject not the scenery of a particular region or a particular mood, but rather the style of a specific earlier master. This marked an important shift in the arts that would set new paradigms for the following centuries. Wang Jian was a close associate of Dong Qichang's, and like many of his paintings, the inscription to this scroll in the upper left identifies it as a work after one of the Four Masters, Wang Meng (whose Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains is displayed in the first section).

 


Wang Meng's influence is immediately evident from the density of the composition and from the rounded mountains made up of layered peaks textured with short, wavering strokes. At the same time, the mountains lack the forceful, twisting momentum typical of earlier interpretations of the Wang Meng style (for example, compare the present work with Shen Zhou's Boating on an Autumn River in the previous section). The distinctively shaped pine trees repeated across the foreground and mid-ground, and virtually abstracted in their formulization as a design element, are particularly striking.

 

Above the painting there is an inscription on a separate piece of paper by Wang Jian's contemporary Zhang Xuezeng, praising Wang and placing him in a lineage tracing back to the Wu School artists Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming (whose works can be seen in the previous section).

 


Wang Jian (1598-1677)

Landscape After Wu Zhen

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1660

Fan; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00147781)

 

One of two paintings by Wang Jian after the Yuan artist Wu Zhen in the exhibition, this elegant fan depicts a retreat nestled in the mountains, backed by a waterfall and looking out over an expanse of water. A path contours along the foothills to the left, extending beyond the painting before it switches back to ascend to the charming detail of a pavilion near the left edge. The downward curve of the path is reflected in the curve of the ridge descending from the retreat to the water on the right, and the continuous line thus formed emphasizes the distinctive shape of the fan, at the same time that it provides a solid foundation for the scene. The composition is a typical arrangement for a fan, weighted to one side, with the positive mass of the mountains on the left balanced by water and hills receding into the distance on the right.

 

The artist's inscription identifies the work as being in the manner of Wu Zhen, and this can be seen in the thick brushstrokes and heavy washes. A variety of saturated ink dots are used for different purposes: rounded dots for the foliage of the trees in the foreground; vertical dots for the more distant vegetation on the mountains; and horizontal dots for the trees obscured by mist on the right. In each case, the dotting adds weight and stability to the painting.

 

 


Wang Jian (1598-1677)

Clouds and Pavilions on a Pass of the Immortals

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), 17th century

Fan; ink and color on gold paper

Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1957

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2308.1)

 

Wang Jian's works usually follow the mode of one of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, and, of the five paintings by the artist in this exhibition, this is the only example not associated (by the artist's inscription) with an earlier style. Rather, it bears a title in elegantly stylized seal script (zhuanshu) on the left edge, followed by the artist's seal. An impressive pavilion with a double-layered, eight-cornered "phoenix" roof sits high in the mountains above the clouds, surrounded by pine trees. The title suggests that the pavilion is so lofty it only can be reached by divine beings (who could fly or ride on cranes to ascend to impenetrable peaks). A woman looks out from the upper story, attended by a servant, while a third figure occupies a covered viewing platform beneath her. The highlights of blue and green, together with the stylized clouds, are archaisms that impart a mythical quality to the scene.

 

By Wang Jian's time, the blue-and-green mode of landscape painting referenced in this fan was associated with Zhao Mengfu (for example, see Dong Qichang's Blue and Green Landscape After Zhao Mengfu earlier in this section). Aside from this, though, the brushwork and composition are more reminiscent of Northern-Song- dynasty (960-1127) monumental landscapes than of Yuan precedents, manifesting an increasing interest in the Northern Song among painters during the 17th century (for another example of this, see Hongren's The Coming of Autumn, also in this section).

 


Wang Jian (1598-1677)

Landscape After Wu Zhen

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1666

Hanging scroll; ink on gold paper

Purchase and Partial Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Hutchinson, 1991

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(6058.1)

 

The establishment of an orthodox lineage of models for scholar-amateur artists by Dong Qichang and his circle often is understood to have introduced stagnation into Chinese landscape painting. Consequently, both Wang Jian and Wang Shimin (whose works are on display nearby) have been interpreted as conservative figures lacking in creativity, who simply imitated the manners of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting.

 

However, a comparison of the two paintings by Wang Jian after Wu Zhen in this exhibition suggests a more complex reality. One is an intimately scaled fan with a straightforward subject, the other a monumental hanging scroll with a complicated narrative. While they are both on paper, the gold ground of the hanging scroll (unusual in this large scale) was less absorbent, requiring different handling of brush and ink. Certain elements share formal similarities (for example, compare the "alum-" shaped double peaks in both works), but their placement in the overall composition results in a different effect.

 

In the same way, related techniques are used, notably a variety of saturated dotting. However, while the dotting in the fan provides weight and stability to the scene, the dotting of the hanging scroll is light, proceeding in a staccato rhythm into the background to create a continuous upward movement that is in many ways more reminiscent of Wang Meng than Wu Zhen. This is especially evident in the long, vertical dots placed on the contours of the mountains, which release their momentum into the unpainted sky of the upper register.


Wang Jian (1598-1677)

After Huang Gongwang's "Secret Forest"

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1670

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00086519)

 

The artist's inscription in the upper register reads:

 

In Jinchang (Suzhou) I had the opportunity to examine Huang Gongwang's Secret Forest; in its subtlety it epitomizes the use of light and shade, blandness, and distance. This is beyond the skills of artists today. In leisure at my window, with nothing to do, I recklessly tried my hand at the master's methods and came up with this painting; I am ashamed at the feebleness of the result.

 

-Early summer of the gengxu year, beneath a green window of the Fragrance Filled Hut, Wang Jian.

 

From this, we can imagine a scene of the elder Wang Jian looking out over his garden in the beginning of summer, recalling a painting by Huang Gongwang he had once seen, and picking up the brush to try his hand at making a free-hand copy from memory.

 

The layering of dark over light and dry over wet ink, the architectonically constructed rock formations rising to rounded mountains given mass by long "hemp-fiber" texturing (pima cun), and the rich variety of vegetation, accomplished with different combinations of ink dotting and brushstrokes, are all characteristic of Huang Gongwang's style.

 


Wang Hui (1632-1717)

Clearing Autumn Sky Over a Fishing Village

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1680

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Purchase, 1955

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2031.1)

 

The narrative of this painting begins with a traveler crossing a bridge in the lower right corner. From the bridge, a path continues behind the trees and rocks of the foreground, extending beyond the left edge before it turns back to contour along the water until it reaches a small compound of humble, thatched buildings (a similar technique can be found in Wang Jian's fan painting after Wu Zhen, also in this section). This retreat is nestled in a grove of bamboo, with a scholar looking out beyond the fence back toward the bridge. From the retreat, the path climbs to a stand of pines, and then to a lookout, from which a broad view of fishermen's boats on the far shore and hills receding into the distance can be enjoyed.

 

Wang Hui indicates in his inscription in the upper right that the painting is in the manner of the "light color method" of Gan Fengzi, an eccentric 12th-century artist known for his love of drink and wild behavior. The juxtaposition of broad washes of color with fine line drawing for the figures, boats and architectural details can be (tenuously) attributed to the style associated with Gan. However, the warm-cool color scheme is characteristic of Wang Hui's more immediate influences, notably Wang Shimin and Dong Qichang (whose works also can be seen in this section). Similarly, the masterfully controlled, delicate brushwork and the use of repetitive fine lines to create accents of foliage (that establish a visual rhythm through the composition) are distinctive to the artist's own unique style.

 


Wang Hui (1632-1717)

Landscape After Wang Meng

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1690

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00053941)

 

Wang Hui's inscription in the upper right reads:

 

Each time I seek solitude I take a staff of pigweed, and I am content with the endless marvelous affairs that fill my time alone. In village after village there are old firewood collectors at their gates, unaware of the sun shining on the verdant hills around them.

-After the brush intent of Wang Meng.

 

The prominently featured, dense vegetation, the mountains constructed from layered cliffs and textured with short, wavering strokes full of nervous energy, and the twisting momentum from foreground to background that unifies the painting are all features of Wang Meng's style.

 

Wang Hui shows a deep understanding of Wang Meng's complex compositional techniques. A comparison of the present work with Wang Meng's Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains in the first section reveals remarkable similarities in the narratives of both paintings. The present work begins with a retreat in the lower left, from which it follows a stream into a valley with a second group of buildings on the right. The path is then obscured as it goes into a deeper valley blocked from view and filled with mist, passing a waterfall to arrive at a temple higher in the mountains on the left. The temple buildings descend along the left edge, following a line of mist that curves back down to the stream.

 


In both paintings, the narrative elements are pushed to the sides, so that the viewer is constantly changing direction as he wanders through deep valleys. Each time a tantalizing suggestion of release from the scene is suggested, the narrative inexorably moves the viewer back toward the center of the painting, and the sense of entrapment in the mountains finally culminates with the forbidding wall of peaks in the background.

 


Wang Hui (1632-1717)

Mountain Colors at Lin’an

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1696

Handscroll; ink and color on paper

Gift of the Martha Cooke Steadman Acquisition Fund, 1960

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(2711.1)

 

This long handscroll is a masterwork of narrative composition. The beginning of each section is punctuated with a pair of figures: two men descending from the hills of the opening, leading to the broad expanse of water that dominates the first section; two men under the pavilion that marks the end of the first section, about to climb a path ascending into the mountains of the second section; two fishermen in their boats (with caverns under the cliffs behind them) at an interlude where the mountains open as a shallow stream meets the main river, which flows along the foreground while hills obscured by archaistic mist occupy the background; and a scholar riding a donkey with an attendant walking behind as they travel along a road to a village nestled in the mountains that make up the final section, culminating with a high view of hilltops emerging from the mist.

 

The viewer is offered different paths through which the landscape can be traversed, so that the painting retains its interest upon repeated viewings (as it no doubt was intended to be used). The arrangement of multiple perspectives is especially effective, and each scene is presented from different angles as the scroll is unrolled. The subtle, warm-cool color scheme, the repetitive staccato brushwork for the foliage, the use of variations in the tree forms to increase visual interest and guide the eye through the narrative, and the firm control of both brushwork and compositional placement are all characteristic of Wang Hui's distinctive style. It is interesting to compare this work with earlier paintings such as Clearing Autumn Sky Over a Fishing Village on display nearby.

 


Wang Hui (1632-1717)

After Huang Gongwang’s

“Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains”

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1702

Handscroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00054066)

 

Huang Gongwang's Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains is arguably the most important work in the entire history of Chinese painting. It was in collection of Dong Qichang (whose works also can be found in this section), and through Dong's influence it became the ultimate model of the scholar-amateur style. The brush and compositional techniques developed by Huang Gongwang in Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains were studied by virtually every later painter, and interpretations of them can be found throughout this exhibition.

 

Tragically, one of the painting's later owners, Wu Hongyu, treasured it so much that he attempted to take it into the afterlife with him, and upon his deathbed in 1650 he ordered it burned. As Wu descended into delirium, his nephew snatched it from the fire (replacing it with another work in case his uncle became lucid enough to realize what he had done). While the majority of the painting was saved, the first section was partially burned, and this was heavily restored and mounted as a separate scroll. The two scrolls have been separated ever since, and the main scroll is now in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, while the opening section belongs to the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou (the two scrolls were reunited for the first time in centuries earlier this year, for a special exhibition in Taiwan).

 


Over the course of his career, Wang Hui made five copies of the scroll; three still survive, of which this is the last. The present scroll is of special value since it preserves the entire composition, and it is thought to be one of the closest approximations of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains before it was burned. Wang Hui seems to have been especially satisfied with this copy and indicates in his inscription that his "hand and mind were in perfect synchronization" when he made it.

 


Wang Hui (1632-1717)

After Ni Zan’s

“Mountain Colors With Pavilion and Stream”

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1705

Fan; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00137140)

 

This fan has two inscriptions by the artist. The first, in the center, identifies it as being after the Yuan painter Ni Zan, while the second, longer inscription on the left describes the circumstances under which it was made:

 

My classmate and old friend has traveled to Huaiyang, and he passed by my home to reminisce; he has stayed on drinking as the candles burn down, and cannot bear to say words of parting. As he prepares to depart, I make this gift to him.

 

Fans often were made as occasional works intended as presents, in this case to commemorate a reunion with a friend from youth, given a special poignancy by the fact that it was done toward the end of the artist's life. In this sense, it serves as an interesting comparison with Ni's own Secluded Stream and Cold Pines in the first section, which similarly was made for a friend who was about to depart, and might never be seen again.

 

The painting follows Ni's formulaic composition of foreground shore with an empty pavilion, mid-ground expanse of water, and background shore with hills receding into the distance. At the same time, the brushwork has a greater clarity than Ni's subtly nuanced strokes; this is typical of Wang Hui's late painting, and also can be seen in his copy of Huang Gongwang's Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains on display nearby.

 


Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715)

Landscape After Wu Zhen

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1702

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00008155)

 

This painting is identified by the artist as being in the manner of Wu Zhen. The heavy brushwork, dark shading, and saturated dotting all are characteristic of Wu's technique as it was understood in Wang Yuanqi's time. Precedents for Wang's interpretation of the Wu Zhen style can be seen in the two paintings after Wu Zhen by Wang Jian (an elder friend of Wang Yuanqi's) earlier in this section.

 

At the same time, the compositional techniques are distinctively Wang Yuanqi's own, and could not be confused with an original painting by Wu Zhen. Wang was influenced by Dong Qichang's practice of reducing compositional elements to geometric forms assembled in various combinations (seen already in Dong's fan painting from the Academy's collection at the beginning of this section); this influence is especially evident here in the rock formations from which the mountains are constructed. The brushwork is similarly flattened and abstracted, serving more as a design element than an attempt at approximating an actual landscape (interesting parallels can be found in European painting two centuries later). Wang Yuanqi also favored a continuous momentum from foreground to background in his works, ultimately deriving from the manner of the Yuan painter Wang Meng.

 

Wang Yuanqi was a close associate of Wang Hui, whose copy of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains on display nearby was made in the same year as the present painting, which bears an additional inscription by Wang Hui in the upper left.

 


Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715)

After Wang Meng’s

“Solitary Temple in the Autumn Mountains”

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1710

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00008153)

 

The artist's inscription indicates that this painting was inspired by a trip to Hangzhou; as he was traveling by boat, he suddenly was struck by the similarity of the scenery to Wang Meng's Solitary Temple in the Autumn Mountains. After two attempts to capture the essence of this earlier painting, he still was not satisfied. He then went into seclusion "near hills by the ocean," and, after sleeping several nights with rain outside his window, he finally made the present work: "only then did I understand the ancient master."

 

The composition is exceedingly dense, filling almost the entire surface. Typical of Wang Meng is the placement of narrative features to either side, here seen in the groups of buildings in the lower right and left. A continuous momentum rises through the center of the painting, beginning with the tall pines in the foreground, then picked up by a path that ascends the lower hills to a temple complex surrounded by red autumn foliage, and finally culminating with the dominant central massif.

 

The background mountains form an impenetrable wall, enclosing valleys on either side; the right one is marked by a waterfall, while the left one is enshrouded in mist. Both valleys return the viewer to the center of the painting, so that one has the sense of being encircled by the mountains without a release beyond the scene (this technique can also be seen in both Wang Meng's Lofty Recluses in Summer Mountains in the first section, and in Wang Hui's Landscape After Wang Meng in this section).

 

 


Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715)

Landscape After Wu Zhen

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Xin 00146031)

 

The grandson of Wang Shimin, Wang Yuanqi was a leading artist in the Qing dynasty Imperial Painting Academy, and a key figure in the establishment of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting as the officially sponsored orthodox style. Not only did he participate in several major painting projects, but he also was responsible for the imperial collection, and was an editor for a catalogue of this collection that still serves as an important resource today.

 

This painting was made for the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662-1722); unlike the other two private works by Wang in the exhibition, which bear long inscriptions by the artist or his associates providing a context, the present scroll only has a small signature in the lower left, reading "Respectfully painted by your servant, Wang Yuanqi." It was a favored work, and was kept in the emperor's private study in the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian). The upper register bears several later imperial seals, including a large one belonging to the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795) in the center that can also be found on the album by Wang's grandfather earlier in this section.

 

Wu Zhen (whose paintings are displayed in the first section) was a reclusive figure, resolutely opposed to the invading Mongol government of his time. There is considerable irony in the fact that a painting in his manner not only represented later official orthodoxy, but moreover was treasured by another foreign emperor (this time Manchu) whose grandfather had invaded China a mere sixty years earlier.

 

 

 


Huang Ding (1660-1730)

Autumn Mountains After Wang Meng

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1697

Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Purchase, 1952

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(1671.1)

 

This monumental painting was made for a high-ranking Manchu nobleman with close family connections to the imperial court, whose inscription follows the artist's in the upper register. Huang Ding was best known for his works in the manner of Wang Meng, and his own inscription indicates that the present work is after this Yuan dynasty master. The dense trees of the foreground, the red accents of autumn foliage, and the short texture strokes of the mountains all are characteristic of Wang Meng's style.

 

At the same time, the stable composition of rounded hills rising in layers to form a dominant mountain on the left, balanced by an open valley receding in a mirror-image on the right, and the simple narrative of a single complex of buildings in the mid-ground, vary from the complexity usually associated with Wang Meng. In contrast, After Wang Meng's "Solitary Temple in the Autumn Mountains" on display nearby, by Huang Ding's teacher Wang Yuanqi, follows Wang Meng's compositional techniques more closely, suggesting that the present painting should be understood to reference the Wang Meng style only in a general way, with considerable individualization apparent in the artist's interpretation.

 


The painting is especially impressive for its fine brushwork, immediately evident in the rich vocabulary of strokes used to delineate the foreground trees. Despite its grand conception, the painting is distinguished by a careful attention to detail. Although landscape painting often is understood to have stagnated during the Qing dynasty, under the increasing conservatism imposed by the followers of Dong Qichang, this superb work by Huang Ding reveals that the lineage tracing its origins to the Four Masters of Yuan Painting maintained exceptionally high standards into the first generation of artists born under Manchu rule.

 


Huang Ding (1660-1730)

Landscape

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1716

Handscroll; ink on paper

Purchase, 1970

Honolulu Academy of Arts

(3724.1)

 

As an independent artist, Huang Ding painted for a variety of patrons. In this regard, the present handscroll makes for an interesting comparison with Autumn Mountains After Wang Meng by the same artist, on display nearby. Appropriate to its eminent patron (a Manchu nobleman), the latter is large in scale, technically accomplished and rich in color. On the other hand, the present painting, while no less monumental in its conception, is intimate, and its monochrome palette focuses on subtle nuances of ink and brush, with the movements of the artist's hand evident throughout. This suggests that it might have been made as a gift for a patron of closer social status, as an expression of the shared cultural values of the scholar-amateur ideal.

 


In this regard, the painting bears an interesting colophon by one of Huang's contemporaries, recounting a visit by the artist some twenty years earlier:

 

Suddenly, one day, I heard a knocking sound; Master Huang Ding had arrived at my gate to pay me a visit! We sipped tea and engaged in pure conversation the entire day. I was concerned that he might be on his way somewhere else, but he told me he planned on lingering in my town for some time. I was exceedingly pleased. The next day I convinced him to stay with me, and we spent every day in conversation from morning to night. In less than a month, the Master had gone through a thousand years of antiquity!

 

The inscription is made more poignant by the fact that, when it was written, Huang Ding had passed away, and memories invoked by its viewing were such that the writer concluded "My enjoyment of this painting is such that I cannot bear to take my hands away from it!"

 


Fang Cong (active second half of the 18th century)

After Ni Zan’s “Lion Forest”

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), ca. 1768

Handscroll; ink and color on paper

Palace Museum, Beijing

(Gu 00004838)

 

The Lion Forest is one of the major gardens in Suzhou, and it is registered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage monuments. The garden was built in the early Ming dynasty, and the elderly Ni Zan participated in its design, making a depiction of it that still survives. Ni's painting was in the imperial collection of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795), who was especially fond of the garden, and not only visited it on several occasions, but also had two gardens inspired by it made in his retreats at the Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) and Chengde. In addition, the emperor commissioned numerous copies of Ni's original by court artists, including this example by Fang Cong.

 

Lion Forest is most famous for its rock designs (many of which suggest images of lions), and the highlight of the painting is a pond surrounded by rocks behind the buildings in the center of the composition. Ni's characteristic dry brushwork and "folded band" texturing (zhedai cun) are evident in the rocks. At the same time, the painting serves as important documentation of the garden in its earliest stage of development, before it reached the complexity of its present layout (which has more extensive rockery extending over several courtyards). The garden was made as a retreat for a Buddhist monk, and altars with Buddhist sculptures are visible through two windows, while a monk sits reading in a corridor, beyond which the scroll concludes with a bamboo grove.

 

The painting bears numerous imperial seals, as well as a calligraphy frontispiece and inscription by Qianlong.

 

The Four Masters of Yuan Painting

 

 

The Mongol conquest of China brought about an unprecedented social and cultural crisis. Although the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) established by the Mongols lasted just a century, it saw dramatic changes in the arts. Prior to the Yuan, painting was dominated by the imperial court, especially during the immediately preceding Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). However, when the Southern Song was defeated, not only did artists lose their primary source of patronage, but the court styles in which they were trained were discredited, since they were associated with the weakness and corruption of the failed government.

 

By the Mongol period, the heartland of China had shifted to the wealthy southern Jiangnan (literally "south of the Yangzi River") region. Many southern intellectuals refused to serve the Mongols and instead turned their attention to the arts as means of redefining their cultural identity. Others continued to pursue government careers, and the tensions between these two groups are sometimes reflected in the paintings in this exhibition. For example, the Yuan painter Ni Zan resolutely avoided politics, but his Secluded Stream and Cold Pines was made for an acquaintance about to take an official posting, as an exhortation to abandon his aspirations and live as a recluse.

 

In both cases, artists turned away from the academic styles of the Southern Song court and instead began to rediscover regional traditions of the Jiangnan area from centuries earlier. The court manner relied on dramatic brush techniques and richly saturated ink washes on luxurious silk to depict poignantly lyrical subjects favored by the nobility. On the other hand, Yuan painters eschewed technical artifices for direct brushwork and subtle variations in ink on paper that captured each intensely personal nuance of the movement of the artist's hand in the act of creation. Their compositions often had simple narratives reduced to their most essential elements, in some cases focusing on nothing more than a few stalks of bamboo and a rock, desiccated pines growing by a stream, or a retreat nestled among rolling hills. Reflecting their scholarly background, Yuan artists joined painting with poetry and calligraphy; indeed, the new vocabulary of brushstrokes they developed drew freely from the latter.

 

Over the course of the Yuan dynasty, Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan and Wang Meng emerged as leading figures, revolutionizing the arts so definitively they established new canons that influenced later generations for centuries to come. The first section of the exhibition juxtaposes the Academy's The Hundred Geese, representing the culmination of the court style in the 13th century, with works by each of the Four Masters and their predecessor Zhao Mengfu, revealing the startling ways in which the arts were transformed against the background of upheaval during the Mongol period.

 

 The Development of the Wu School in the

Ming Dynasty

 

During the Yuan period, Suzhou in modern Jiangsu province emerged as an important artistic and political center. Huang Gongwang was a sometime resident of the city, and both Ni Zan and Wang Meng were regular visitors. Suzhou's influence culminated in the 1360s, when the city was established as the capital of Zhang Shicheng (1321-1367), a leader of the Red Turban rebellion that crippled the failing Mongol government. However, when Zhang was defeated by his rival Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), who went on to found the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the city fell on hard times. A commoner, Zhu was suspicious of Suzhou's intellectuals, hundreds of whom were eventually imprisoned for treason (including Wang Meng).

 

Within a century, though, Suzhou had regained its preeminent position, and over the course of the Ming it grew to become one of the wealthiest centers in the Jiangnan region. At the same time, tensions with the government lingered, and many of the city's elite chose to avoid political service, turning their attention instead to the arts. The highly individual styles of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting were systematized and developed into a distinctive regional tradition that came to be known as the Wu School (Wu was an ancient name for the Suzhou area). The Wu School remained largely independent of government support, and, during the early Ming, it was directly contrary to the tastes of the court. For example, after being summoned to paint a series of official historical portraits, the Suzhou artist Zhao Yuan (see Reading in the Summer Mountains After Dong Yuan in this section) was executed when his work did not meet with Zhu Yuanzhang's approval. For this reason, it often is characterized as a movement of the scholar-amateur class, although some well-known Suzhou painters worked at least partly as professionals.

 

The early Ming saw the emergence of several prominent Suzhou artists, including Du Qiong and Liu Jue, but later historians identified the first major figure (and hence founder) of the Wu School as Shen Zhou. A prodigious talent, Shen gained a reputation as a teenager for his poetry and went on to become the leading painter of his generation. His works combine impressive technical mastery with intimate personal expression, and the stylistic diversity of the four paintings by Shen in this exhibition reveals a profound dedication to experimentation. Although the Four Masters of Yuan Painting were a pervasive influence, Shen internalized each of their manners as a basis for his own innovations.

 

Under Shen Zhou's student Wen Zhengming, the Wu School reached its zenith. The Wen family produced several major artists, including Wen Zhengming's nephew Wen Boren, as well as a wide circle of followers. During the 16th century, Suzhou became a center for the arts that can be likened to the role Paris played in European painting three centuries later.

 

 The Development of the Orthodox School

in the Late Ming to Early Qing

 

Over the course of the Ming dynasty, a number of tensions developed in the world of painting. These tensions revolved around the advocacy of emulating painting styles from a particular period, group of artists, or social class. Debates became increasingly heated during the 16th and 17th centuries, coalescing around the controversial figure of Dong Qichang. Dong was a passionate scholar, talented official, aggressive collector, and innovative artist. As a member of the educated elite, he saw a rigid division in painting between professional artists (including those that served the court) and scholar-amateurs, expressing a strong bias for the latter.

 

Dong eventually formulated a theory of Northern and Southern Schools of painting, based on the Northern and Southern lineages of Chan Buddhism (and not on regional associations). Into the Northern School he placed professional artists, most notably the court artists of the Southern Song dynasty, whose emphasis on technical training he likened to "gradual enlightenment" in the Northern lineage of Chan. For Dong, this tradition was entirely unsuitable for artists of his own social class.

 

In contrast, the Southern School consisted of scholar-amateurs reaching back to the Tang dynasty (618-907), culminating in the Yuan period, and continuing through Wu School artists such as Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming to his own time (including himself and his circle). This tradition was characterized by painting for personal cultivation and self-expression, resembling the "sudden enlightenment" of the Southern lineage of Chan. In particular, Dong encouraged scholar-amateurs to carefully study the Four Masters of Yuan Painting. Under his influence, a distinct art-historical trend began to appear in painting, and artists started taking as their primary subjects the manner of one or another earlier master (as opposed to a particular scene or mood in itself); this can be seen in Dong's own works, such as Landscape After Huang Gongwang and Landscape After Ni Zan in this section.

 

Dong developed a circle of followers, including Xiang Shengmo, Wang Shimin, and Wang Jian in this exhibition, all of whom were born into prominent southern families with strong political ties and impressive art collections. Although the Ming dynasty went into severe decline in the 17th century, finally falling to the Manchus in the decade after Dong's death, these artists maintained their social status into the following Qing dynasty (1644-1911). In the next generation, Wang Jian's protégé Wang Hui, and Wang Shimin's grandson Wang Yuanqi (collectively known as the Four Wangs) attracted the attention of the Qing court, and the Southern School attained official recognition. Ironically, the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, whose idiosyncratic works were rooted in the crisis of the Mongol period, reached their height of influence as the orthodox style for another foreign dynasty, this time Manchu, centuries later.


Poems for each section—to go on wall above handscrolls.

 

Section 1

 

Over Huang Gongwang handscroll (#3):

 

Free brushstrokes every which way, wherever the mind roves;

Lighting incense, wielding my brush—so I’ll end my days.

Bamboo grove before my window, hugging the mossy rocks;

Wintry rains, bleak and bleary, wait for twilight to dispel.

 

-Ni Zan, Self-Composed on a Small Painting

 

Section 2

 

Over Shen Zhou handscroll (#15):

 

White clouds, sashlike, wind round the mountain’s waist;

Stone stairs fly into the void, as the narrow path recedes.

Leaning, alone, on my humble staff, I gaze afar, at ease—

Wanting to answer this sounding freshet with my flute.

 

-Shen Zhou, Leaning on My Staff, Looking Afar

 

Over Shen Zhou (#14) and Wen Zhengming (#16) handscrolls:

 

Rains linger in spring treetops, green shade complete;

Best of all I love the Western Hills, glowing toward dusk.

Somewhere there must be a home at the mountain’s foot—

Beyond the stream, far-off, see the white mists rise.

 

-Wen Zhengming, Spring Trees After the Rain

 

[OPTIONAL] Over Wen Zhengming handscroll (#17):

 

Sun sets, the temple darkens;

Far-off bell-tones emerge from the misty ridge.

Somewhere, an unsleeping fellow—

Limpidly triggered to deepest understanding.

 

-Wen Zhengming, Late Bell in a Misty Temple

 


Over Chen Daofu handscroll (#26):

 

Painting during the rains, I borrow their drenching drip;

Writing poems by lamplight, we pass the endless night.

Next morning, we open the gate—spring waters engorged;

Down by the lake, you head off home—the thud of your boat-pole…

 

                             -Shen Zhou, On a Painting of Rain

 


Section 3

 

Over Dong Qichang handscroll (#29):

 

Eccentrically bent, I live secluded, always rising late;

Once I reach the stream, my mood grows befuddled.

Woods’ pavilion, dawn hues in the green haze;

Eyes sending the windswept sail on west across the river.

 

-Dong Qichang, Inscribed on a Painting

 

Over Wang Hui handscrolls (#47/48):

 

A stony path undulating, mountain trees grown lush;

Woods and springs — as pure and secluded as this!

How to spring my flying clogs beyond a thousand peaks,

Find a house and thatch it, on the very pinnacle!

 

            -Dong Qichang, In the Manner of a Tang or Song Dynasty Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments