landscape painter of the late eleventh century

Chinese, c. 1000–1090)
Guo Xi was the preeminent landscape painter of the late eleventh century. Although he continued the Li Cheng (919–967) idiom of “crab-claw” trees and “devil-face” rocks, Guo Xi’s innovative brushwork and use of ink are rich, almost extravagant, in contrast to the earlier master’s severe, spare style.
Old Trees, Level Distance compares closely in brushwork and forms to Early Spring, Guo Xi’s masterpiece dated 1072 (National Palace Museum, Taipei). In both paintings, landscape forms simultaneously emerge from and recede into a dense moisture-laden atmosphere: rocks and distant mountains are suggested by outlines, texture strokes, and ink washes that run into one another to create an impression of wet blurry surfaces. Guo Xi describes his technique in his painting treatise Linquan gaozhi (Lofty Ambitions in Forests and Streams): “After the outlines are made clear by dark ink strokes, use ink wash mixed with blue to retrace these outlines repeatedly so that, even if the ink outlines are clear, they appear always as if they had just come out of the mist and dew.”

landscape 2
Qu Ding
(Chinese, active c. 1023–1056)
Between 900 and 1100, Chinese painters created landscapes that “depicted the vastness and multiplicity” of creation itself. Viewers of these works are meant to identify with a human figure in the painting, allowing them to “walk through, ramble, or dwell” in the landscape. In this landscape, lush forests suffused with mist identify the time as a midsummer evening. Moving from right to left, travelers make their way toward a temple retreat, where vacationers are seated together enjoying the view. Above the temple roofs the central mountain sits majestically, the climax to man’s universe.

The advanced use of texture strokes and ink wash suggest that Summer Mountains, formerly attributed to Yan Wengui (active c. 970–1030), is by a master working in the Yan idiom around 1050, a date corroborated by the presence of collectors’ seals belonging to the Song emperor Huizong (r. 1101–25). Although there is no record of any painting by Yan Wengui in Huizong’s collection, three works entitled Summer Scenery by Yan’s eleventh-century follower Qu Ding are listed in the emperor’s painting catalogue

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One response to “landscape painter of the late eleventh century

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