This album leaf presents a poetic evocation of one of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers. The Eight Views became a popular subject for painters beginning in the late eleventh century after the Chan (Japanese: Zen) Buddhist monk Huihong (1071–1128) composed eight poems on these themes. His poem "Mountain Market, Clear with Rising Mist" offers vivid images for painters to interpret:
Last night's rain is letting up, mountain air is heavy, Steam rising, sun and shadow, shifting light amid trees; The silkworm market comes to a close, the crowd thins out, Roadside willows by the market bridge: golden threads play; Whose house with flower-filled plot is across the valley? A smooth-tongued yellow bird calls in spring breeze; Wine flag in hazy distance-look and you can see: It's the one west of the road to Zhe Tree Reidge Valley. (Alfreda Murck, trans., in Images of the Mind [Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1984], p. 226)
In Xia Gui's interpretation, boldly executed brushstrokes and ink dots create an abstract language of visual signs rather than merely descriptive forms: the kinesthetic brushstrokes, which change effortlessly from outlines and foliage dots to wedge-shaped modeling strokes and ink wash, at once simplify and unify the landscape and human forms, breathing life into the moisture-drenched landscape. It was this brilliantly simplified idiom of ink wash and ax-cut brush that infused gesture with meaning, preparing the way for the expressive calligraphic revolution of the ensuing Yuan dynasty.
Inscription: Artist's signature (2 characters in semi-cursive script)
Xia Gui 夏圭
Unidentified artist, 1 column in standard script, undated:
Xia Gui of the Southern Song dynasty 南宋夏圭
[ John C. Ferguson , 1913; sold to MMA]
New York. China Institute in America. "Treasures from the Metropolitan Museum," October 24, 1979–January 27, 1980.
Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.
Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.
Princeton University Art Museum. "Brush, Implication & Consequence-landscape of Ming and Qing [Ch'ing] China (1368–1911)," April 4, 1998–June 14, 1998.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan I," March 1, 2003–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings," March 1, 2008–August 10, 2008.
Seoul. National Museum of Korea. "Landscapes: Seeking the Ideal World," July 22, 2014–September 21, 2014.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.