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Title: Selections
Snowy Bamboo (New window)

Snowy Bamboo

Guo Bi (1280-1335), Yuan dynasty
Handscroll, ink on paper, 31.8 x 145.2 cm

Guo Bi (style name Tianxi, sobriquet Tuisi), a native of Qingkou (in Jiangsu province), was a skilled painter and calligrapher who often associated with famous scholars and monks of his time. His landscapes bear the style of the Song dynasty father-and-son scholar-painters Mi Fu and Mi Youren. He also specialized in painting scenes of bamboo, trees, and rocks. When intoxicated, he would take a brush and apply ink freely to create his paintings, which he thought equaled in beauty those of the ancients.

Set deep in a cold and desolate winter, the bamboo here are laden with snow as this riverbank scene is hushed in stillness. Guo Bi’s style of painting is quite exquisite, revealing an atmosphere of purity and utmost elegance using the brushwork for which he was known to have used.

Garden of Pleasure in Solitude (New window)

Garden of Pleasure in Solitude

Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink on paper, 27 x 141.3 cm

Wen Zhengming (original name Bi, style names Zhengming [which he later went by] and Zhengzhong, sobriquets Tingyunsheng and Hengshan) and was a native of Changzhou (Suzhou) in Jiangsu. He was a student of Shen Zhou and gifted at both painting and calligraphy. Having a long career, Wen left to posterity many works and was known as one of the Four Ming Masters.

Wen Zhengming has here adopted Wang Meng’s brush style to depict a scene from Sima Guang’s Garden of Pleasure in Solitude. This view shows a small group of buildings and fence palings at the water’s edge. To the right stands a solitary pine, and from behind the house shoot up feathery bamboo. On the porch, a man leans against the windowsill, gazing across the water to the distant hills. Although this scroll was painted when the artist was almost 90, it has all of the spirit and vigor of his youth.

The  Lutanist (New window)

The Lutanist

Tang Yin (1470-1523), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink and light colors on paper, 29.2 x 197.5 cm

Tang Yin (style names Bohu, Ziwei; sobriquet Liuru jushi) was native to Wuxian, Jiangsu. A talented genius, he was also unrestrained and unconventional. Though placing first at the Nanjing provincial exams, he was later implicated in a scandal, ending his prospects as an official. Studying painting under Zhou Chen, he early achieved renown in landscape, figure, and bird-and-flower subjects.

In this handscroll a scholar sits lightly playing the lute among rocks, pines, and water with books, an inkstone, bronzes and curios around him in an elegant scholarly manner. A gurgling stream also seems to accompany the music. The musician is Yang Jijing (Ling), a native of Wu. Known for his talent with the lute, Tang Yin painted him twice, this work being one of them.

Misty River and Layered Ridges (New window)

Misty River and Layered Ridges

Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink on silk, 30.7 x 141.4 cm

Dong Qichang (style name Xuanzai, sobriquet Sibo), a native of Huating (modern Shanghai), is known for advocating the theory of Northern and Southern Schools, promoting the Dong Yuan and Juran manner of the latter as the orthodox.

Dong’s inscription of 1614, written ten years after the work was completed, indicates he was 50 by Chinese reckoning at the time. He also states that he followed “Misty Rivers and Layered Ridges” by Wang Shen, on which was inscribed a poem by Su Shi. Unfortunately, neither survives today. Dong, lamenting the loss of Wang’s work, did this freestyle interpretation. Painting it in autumn, it explains why Dong changed the original spring scenery to autumn. With more texture strokes than washes, the lines are simplified for a refreshing atmosphere.

Cundi (New window)


Anonymous, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, gold and colors on paper, 126.7 x 81.1 cm

The background of this painting is rendered in dark blue. Depicted here is a large lotus blossom above the waves upon which Cundi, a form of Guanyin, solemnly sits cross-legged. The figure wears a five-pointed crown and jewelry draped across the torso. The face is distinguished by a third eye, and the figure features 18 arms. Some of the hands form mudras (gestures), while most hold ritual objects. In each corner above, a heavenly deity approaches on clouds, while two dragon kings below support the lotus stem. The monk in the lower right probably is a Cundi practitioner. The work was done in gold ink with fine flowing lines, and the drapery patterns complete and detailed, making this a fine Buddhist painting of the Ming dynasty.

White Falcon (New window)

White Falcon

Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688-1766), Qing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 123.8 x 65.3 cm

Lang Shining is the Chinese name of the Italian Giuseppe Castiglione, a native of Milan who entered the Jesuit priesthood at the age of 19, taking up the study of painting and architecture. At 27 he journeyed to China as a missionary and served the Qing court. He excelled at Western techniques to render subjects, his paintings featuring color washes and the effects of light and shadows.

This work depicts a white falcon with Western painting techniques. The eyes and even the white feathers all emphasize the effect of light. The background of a pine tree and mountain spring was likely by a painter specializing in traditional Chinese techniques. This bird of prey was submitted as tribute by Fuheng in 1751, Castiglione being about 62 years old at the time.


Manjusri  on a Lotus Pedestal (New window)

Manjusri on a Lotus Pedestal

Ding Guanpeng (fl. 1726-1770), Qing dynasty
Hanging scroll, colors and gold on silk, 125.7 x 65.2 cm

Ding Guanpeng entered the Qing court in 1726 under the Yongzheng Emperor and achieved renown in the Qianlong reign. There is no mention of him after he left the court in 1770 due to illness. He specialized in figures, being gifted at imitating ancient works. Besides such figure-and-landscape subjects as the nymph of the Luo River, he also was commissioned to copy religious subjects, too.

Scholarly research suggests that this work on the bodhisattva Manjusri was done in 1762 and perhaps related to the Manjusri image commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor at Mt. Wutai. The background halo features auspicious floral and bat motifs. The wash shading technique of the face and hands also gives the effect of volume and shading, suggesting the influence of Western painting techniques practiced by Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione) at the time.