國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum (New window)

:::Title: Selections
Bailuquan Hermitage at Sheshan (New window)

Bailuquan Hermitage at Sheshan

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 27.6 x 133.6 cm

Starting from about 1555, when Suzhou came under attack by Japanese pirates, Wen Boren and his family sought refuge in Nanjing, taking up residence near Bailuquan Hermitage at Sheshan. At the time, a monk at the hermitage, Fumao (originally the abbot of Zhutang Temple) in Suzhou), was a member of Wen Zhengming's circle. The two of them along with friends often held literary gatherings and poetry meetings at the hermitage, becoming famous events of the day. In fact, this painting may have been done for Fumao.

Wen Boren's arrangement of perspectives for the scenery in this painting is also very interesting. For example, he takes a bird's-eye view for depicting the boats sailing on the Yangtze River along with buildings on the outskirts of Old Nanjing and the celebrated Qixia Temple. He then takes a level perspective to render the mountains surrounding Bailuquan Hermitage, cleverly using this juxtaposition of far and near for the scenery to create a sense of removal from the bustling world, thus highlighting the lofty and untrammeled hermitage.
Portrait of Yang Jijing (New window)

Portrait of Yang Jijing

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Handscroll, ink and light colors on paper, 29.1 x 23.9 cm

This was done by Wen Boren in 1526 at the age of 24, making it perhaps his earliest surviving dated work and also his only figure painting. The master of the painting is Yang Jijing (before 1504-1530), a famous lutanist of Suzhou who had befriended Wen Zhengming and others, which is why Wen Boren had an opportunity to do his portrait.

Although this work is now mounted as a handscroll, it was originally a small hanging scroll. The painting was done on paper and Wen Boren's colophon written on silk, so the latter was the artist's own inscription that probably was originally on the mounting silk in the lower left part of the small hanging scroll.

Deep River in the Fifth Month (New window)

Deep River in the Fifth Month

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 110.3 x 45.3 cm

The theme and title of this painting derive from a line of poetry by Du Fu that reads, "The secluded land over many years distances the gate to reclusion, the deep river in the fifth month (midsummer) makes the thatched building cool." The painting takes a one-corner composition, with thick mountains in the lower right corner and a vast expanse of river and sky to the back. Several buildings are concealed in the mountains, where a man leans alone against a railing to gaze at the river scenery, conveying a scene of secluded reclusion.

The inscription on this work indicates it was done at the Tingyun Hall, the studio of Wen Boren's uncle, Wen Zhengming. Wen Boren probably had many opportunities to go to his uncle's studio, but later the two reportedly had a legal dispute and their relationship soured as a result. For this reason, scholars suggest that this work was done when both uncle and nephew were still on good terms, making it an early work by Wen Boren.

Pines and Ridges by a Bamboo Fence (New window)

Pines and Ridges by a Bamboo Fence

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 132.6 x 30.7 cm

In the foreground of this painting is a monk wearing a straw cap as he walks with a staff about to enter a monastery in the mountains. A scholar in the middleground crosses a bridge, perhaps being a self-portrait of Wen Boren himself "dissipating among the mountains and streams for years already." In the distant scenery, as if floating above the clouds and mists, stands a tall, beautiful peak awe-inspiring against the skyline, suggesting some wondrous scene in the artist's pursuit of a spiritual realm.

This work was done in 1564, and six years later Wen Boren inscribed poetry in its upper right part. The title comes from a line that he wrote in his verse. Although the brushwork here is relatively coarse, it still retains Wen Boren's love of filling the composition with details. Similar in style to the fan "Li Yuan Off to Pangu" in this exhibit, both are late masterpieces by Wen Boren after the style of Wang Meng.

Autumn Clearing over Mountains and Streams (New window)

Autumn Clearing over Mountains and Streams

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 154.9 x 32.5 cm

Wen Zhengming enjoyed using layers of peaks and rocks in his long hanging scrolls to construct intricate and majestic mountain forms. Although this work by Wen Boren is narrow, the mountains and forests do not overlap to form a sense of majesty. Instead, a bird's-eye view is used to express a sense of depth.

A lofty scholar with a staff crosses an arched bridge with rectangular plinth foundations, the small path following the zigzagging stream to take the viewer to the recluse at rest on a daybed next to the thatched hut. Continuing even deeper, we stand next to two towering pine trees and look out across a placid pond and column-like peaks on the other bank as well as distant mountains standing above a thick bank of clouds and mists. This painting from 1547, although an early work, is a masterpiece already foretelling the development of Wen Boren's own style.

The Yuanjiao Studio (New window)

The Yuanjiao Studio

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 133.2 x 46 cm

Depicted on the main island in this work is a round plateau with triangular blue-and-green mountain forms in front pressing against a cluster of Daoist buildings in red. Various trees dot the mountains in this depiction of the legendary Daoist sea peak known as Mt. Yuanjiao. The real leading character, however, is the building in the lower part, where a host and guest chat over scrolls as attendants prepare to receive the visitors. This is an example of a studio painting popular at the time, in which here a landscape painting has been specially designed around the name of the Yuanjiao Studio.

This work, done in 1550, is the earliest surviving blue-and-green landscape painting by Wen Boren. The forms of the rocks and trees as well as the coloring here all follow the model of Wen Zhengming, but Wen Boren adeptly reorganized them into a mystically marvelous scene filled with archaism.

Fresh Waters and Clearing Hills (New window)

Fresh Waters and Clearing Hills

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 125 x 32.8 cm

In the foreground is a lofty scholar by a stream looking out at a pair of cranes on stream waters and rocks, as if wanting to go with his friend to the mountains. In the uppermost part of the painting are several places emerging from a sea of clouds. In addition to the temple building are several thatched cottages, outside of which stand two figures on a wooden bridge gazing at a flowing stream, perhaps at that moment expecting a friend to come up to the mountains.

The colors of the mountains here are like jade, and brightly colored small plants and moss dots cling to the sloping cliff and Lake Tai rock motifs, the waters flowing slowly yet surely as clouds and mists gush forth. Wen Boren has depicted this scene like a realm of immortals, as if singing the praise and admiration of forests and streams in his homeland. This work, from 1570, belongs to Wen Boren's late period.

The Stone Cliffs at Tianchi (New window)

The Stone Cliffs at Tianchi

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 89.6 x 31.1 cm

Mt. Tianchi, located about 15 kilometers west of Suzhou, features unusual peaks and cliffs, also being home to the Jijian Temple built in the Yuan dynasty. Wen Boren cleverly used the style of the old master Juran to depict this scenic area near Suzhou. He employed long hemp-fiber texture strokes to distinguish the mountain forms, the edges of the slopes being lined with layers of trees and the mountain ridges decorated with small rock forms known as alum lumps, making Mt. Tianchi appear dense and solid.

The small path below the cliff at the right near the foreground winds tortuously, leading the viewer in front of the majestic temple standing next to the large area of rocky cliffs. On the mountain path behind the temple walks a person, while a house with a thatched fence is located to the left as well. This work from 1558 is both majestic and detailed, making it a masterpiece of Wen's middle years. It also shows how Wen Boren expressed himself beyond the style of the Yuan master Wang Meng.

West Dongting Mountain (New window)

West Dongting Mountain

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 33.5 x 35 cm

This painting and the inscriptions appearing above it were originally the left and right leaves of an album leaf, now remounted as a small hanging scroll. Although undated, Xie Shichen's inscription dated to 1559 suggests that the painting was done sometime before the mid-1550s.

West Dongting Mountain is located in Lake Tai and is the site of many relics and scenic spots, being famous for its scenery. Judging from the first sentence of the poetry inscribed on the work ("Thin clouds envelop the moon on a boundless evening"), this work intends to depict a scene of West Mountain under a hazy moon at dusk. The painting method is exceptionally fine, the figures in the scenery being only about 0.5cm tall but still with a variety of expression. And many of the leaves and texture lines of the rocks are less than 0.05cm, demonstrating Wen's consummate skill in fine brushwork.

Landscape (New window)

Landscape

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 120 x 30 cm

Many types of trees fill this painting, with much of their foliage rendered using brownish red colors, as if to suggest that the scenery has already entered the season of autumn, but still before the cold has arrived to make the leaves fall. Even though an old tree appears in the middleground, its arrangement of moss dots still suggest flourishing vitality. In fact, the vegetation in the entire landscape seems to have a sense of growth and vitality.

The brushwork used to render the rocks and trees in this painting is relatively coarse, but the work still retains the consistently rich details that can be found in Wen Boren's other works, suggesting it might date from his later years. In the foreground is a lofty scholar in a boat resting by some reeds, perhaps being a reflection of Wen Boren himself leisurely admiring the scenery of his hometown landscape.

Ten Views of Suzhou

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Album leaf, ink and colors on paper, 32 x 25.6 cm

Pure Summer at Canglang (Leaf 3) (New window)

Pure Summer at
Canglang
(Leaf 3)

Boating on the Xu River (Leaf 4) (New window)

Boating on the Xu River
(Leaf 4)

Spring Dawn at Zhixing (Leaf 6) (New window)

Spring Dawn at Zhixing
(Leaf 6)

Auspicious Offering at the Pagoda (Leaf 8) (New window)

Auspicious Offering at the Pagoda
(Leaf 8)

Clearing After Snow at Lingyan (Leaf 10) (New window)

Clearing After Snow at Lingyan
(Leaf 10)

This album depicting scenic places around Suzhou in different seasons consists of ten leaves, of which five have been selected here. "Spring Dawn at Zhixing" shows a steady stream of people going to visit the beautiful scene at Baoen Temple on horseback and sedan chair. "Pure Summer at Canglang" shows a scholar studying with his back against the lotus pond at Canglang Pavilion. Along the courtyard walls are also many ornamental windows. "Boating on the Xu River" reveals a broad river, where boats with cargo and passengers make their way as people with goods on their backs in the foreground wait for the ferries to arrive. "Auspicious Offering at the Pagoda" shows monks clasping their hands behind their backs in the foreground as they gaze up at Baochu Pagoda above. "Clearing After Snow at Lingyan," although a snow scene, also reveals shops at the foot of the mountain, perhaps with visitors attracted to the scenery despite the cold.

The album as a whole is not only intended to depict beautiful places, but the lively figures that dot the landscapes also suggest stories that might have occurred at these scenic sites, filling them with personality and vitality. The motifs in the paintings here still reflect the influence of Wen Zhengming, and the brushwork is somewhat fine, suggesting that this is an early work by Wen Boren.

Li Yuan Off to Pangu (New window)

Li Yuan Off to Pangu

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Folding fan mounted as an album leaf,
ink and colors on paper, 18.4 x 53 cm

This is a late work by Wen Boren done in 1570. Li Yuan of the Tang dynasty was an official who had retired to reclusion at Pangu due to deterioration in government. According to records, Pangu is pressed on both sides by mountains, the road to there being deep and winding. But once there, the land opens up with fertile grounds and spring waters, and plants and trees grow in abundance, making it an ideal place to live in seclusion.

Wen Boren used the pure and lofty Li Yuan as a metaphor for his friend Ji Chong, who had returned home to live in reclusion, and Pangu for the place he retired to. The contorted texture strokes and outlines of the rocks in this painting are sprinkled with heavy "moss dot" strokes, revealing Wen Boren's adaptation of Wang Meng's (1308-1385) style from the Yuan dynasty. Though the painting is small, the details are many and expertly arranged. This work is from "Album of Painted Fans by Ming Artists."

Setting Adrift on a Pure River (New window)

Setting Adrift on a Pure River

Wen Boren (1502-1575), Ming dynasty
Folding fan mounted as an album leaf,
ink and colors on paper, 18 x 55.3 cm

In the painting are figures leisurely boating on a placid river surrounded by beautiful scenery. The nearby summit in the distance is enveloped in clouds and mists while the land on either side of the river slopes gently down to the water, creating a zigzagging waterline in the middle distance that leads into the depths of white clouds.

This is a Wen School reinterpretation of the "cloudy mountain" type of landscape associated with Mi Fu and Mi Youren of the Song dynasty, the painting also featuring short and moist horizontal texture strokes commonly known as "Mi Dots," likewise referring to these two artists. This arrangement of dots and strokes creates the impression of lush forests. Wen Boren's brushwork, however, is somewhat more refined, taking the comparatively dense forests of leaves in the Mi Style to make them more elegant and rich, depicting a beautiful scene of elegant cloudy mountains equivalent to that of the Mi Style. This work is from "Album IV of Painted Fans by Ming Artists (1)."