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Buildings Among Mountains and Streams (New window)

Buildings Among Mountains and Streams

Yan Wengui (fl. latter half of 10th-first half of 11th c.),
Song dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on silk, 103.9 x 47.4 cm

Yan Wengui, native to Wuxing in Zhejiang, was a Painter-in-Attendance at the Painting Academy under Emperor Renzong. His landscapes for the most part feature huge peaks and lofty cliffs with buildings skillfully arranged, creating landscapes both delicate and pure.

This painting depicts peaks and streams with a cascade and buildings among layered crags. The stone face on the left bears a signature for "Brushed by Hanlin Painter-in-Attendance Yan Wengui." Coarse, trembling lines render the outlines of peaks, the valleys in light ink creating a bright atmosphere. The brushwork is also fine and dense, reflecting Yan Wengui's style. The brushwork, though, is rounded and graceful, differing from the strong, angular style of other works associated with him. From perhaps the 12th or 13th century, this painting derives from Yan's style.

Training the Horse (New window)

Training the Horse

Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), Yuan dynasty
Album leaf, ink on paper, 22.7 x 49 cm

Zhao Mengfu (style name Zi'ang, sobriquet Songxue daoren) descended from the Song dynasty founder, Taizu, but he also served in the Yuan dynasty at the Hanlin Academy and was posthumously entitled Duke of Wei. He specialized in calligraphy and excelled at painting landscapes, figures, and orchids-and-bamboos, becoming a leader in literati art circles at the time.

Here Zhao Mengfu has painted a man and a horse in the ink-outline ("baimiao") method. The horse's mane and tail blow almost horizontally in the wind, as do its companion's robes and sleeves. Both are rendered in fine yet strong lines using a centered brush that is animated and spirited. They express a bold yet reserved manner with refined skill in both spirit and form. The horse in this painting features a pure, clear manner that differs from the warlike steeds of the Han and aristocratic mounts of the Tang.

This work is leaf eight in the album "Famous Paintings Through the Ages."

Zizhi Mountain Studio (New window)

Zizhi Mountain Studio

Ni Zan (1301-1374), Yuan dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 80.5 x 34.8 cm

Ni Zan (style name Yuanzhen, sobriquets Yunlin and Yuweng), a native of Wuxi in Jiangsu, came from a wealthy family and had built the Qingbi Pavilion, amassing a collection of ancient painting and calligraphy. He excelled at landscapes and was known as one of the Four Yuan Masters.

In this monochrome ink painting is a riverbank, scattered trees, bamboo, and a small pavilion. On the opposite bank, rounded mountains rise to form a composition simple and pure with a sense of expansiveness. The ink is light and elegant, a slanted brush used to render the outlines of rocks and mountains to create a sense of force and weight. The brushwork for the bamboo is especially powerful, making this a masterpiece by Ni. Though undated, the style here suggests a late work from around the age of 70.

After the Line ''Idly Watching Children Catch Willow Flowers'' (New window)

After the Line "Idly Watching Children Catch Willow Flowers"

Zhou Chen (ca. 1450-1535), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 116.6 x 63.5 cm

Zhou Chen (style name Shunqing, sobriquet Dongcun), a native of Wu (modern Suzhou, Jiangsu), studied landscape painting under Chen Xian. Influenced by Song dynasty masters, he copied the styles of Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Ma Yuan, and Xia Gui. Zhou later transmitted his mature style to Tang Yin.

In front of lofty mountains lies a thatched hut secluded below a bending willow tree. An old gentleman leisurely watches children romping as they try to catch falling willow flowers. The leaves are in light translucent green with variations of “plum-flower” and “rat-foot” strokes. The brushwork throughout is spirited, in the figures, banana leaves, and cottage moving steadily to produce a serene and elegant scene that makes for one of Zhou’s most successful works.

Deep Snow in Mountain Passes (New window)

Deep Snow in Mountain Passes

Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 25.3 x 445.2 cm

Wen Zhengming, native to Changzhou, Jiangsu, had the given name Bi but was known by his style name Zhengming; his sobriquets included Tingyunsheng and Hengshan jushi. Excelling at poetry, calligraphy, and painting, Wen followed the style of his teacher, Shen Zhou, to become one of the Four Ming Masters.

Amidst clustered peaks and fluttering snow in a scene devoid of greenery appear travelers astride donkeys as they cross a frozen river. This snowscape was rendered using colors, the contours described in blue, green, and ink washes. With its marvelous brushwork on beautiful paper, this work is truly a masterpiece of Wen Zhengming's.

New Year's Market in a Time of Peace (New window)

New Year's Market in a Time of Peace

Ding Guanpeng (fl. 1737-1768), Qing dynasty
Handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 30.3 x 233.5 cm

Ding Guanpeng's birth and death dates as well as hometown are unknown, but he served the court during the Qianlong era (1736-1795). Excelling at painting Buddhist and Taoist figures, he studied the style of the late Ming artist Ding Yunpeng. He also incorporated Western methods of perspective, his coloring also adding light and shadows to create a realistic effect. His works were admired by many.

This work from 1742 under the Qianlong Emperor depicts amusements in the countryside during the Lunar New Year. Fellow countrymen bow to each other with scenes of firecrackers for sale, people beating peace drums, a person with a performing monkey, a model boat prop, a stage canopy, peddlers and wares, and people milling about. Including pines, peach, and bamboo, all are done realistically.