Image: 37 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (94.6 x 35.9 cm)
Overall with mounting: 82 x 20 5/8 in. (208.3 x 52.4 cm)
Overall with knobs: 82 x 24 5/8 in. (208.3 x 62.5 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 213
In 1366, Ni Zan abandoned his home to escape marauding soldiers. Even after the establishment of the Ming dynasty in 1368, Ni continued the life of a wanderer, visiting old haunts that he had not seen for twenty or thirty years. According to his epitaph writer, Zhou Nanlao (1308–1383), "in his late years, he became quieter and more withdrawn than ever. Having lost or given away everything he ever owned, he did his best to forget his worries. Wearing a yellow [Daoist] cap and country clothes, he roamed the lakes and mountains, leading a recluse's life."
Woods and Valleys of Mount Yu, executed two years before Ni Zan's death, expresses the painter's contentment in the life of a recluse. The poem ends with the lines:
We watch the clouds and daub with our brushes We drink wine and write poems. The joyous feelings of this day Will linger long after we have parted.
The dry but tender brushwork is aloof and restrained. There is a tranquil luminous quality about the painting that makes it one of the most fully realized works of the artist's later years.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (6 columns in standard script)
Chen Fan (active mid-2nd c.) prepared a bed Only when Xu Ru (active mid-2nd c.) came for a visit. The water from the well in Yan You’s [Yan Yan, zi Ziyou, 506 B.C. –?] neighborhood [in Changshu] is sweet and cool, Whereas Yuzhong's [Ji Zhongyong, 12th c. B.C.] shrine [on Mount Yu] is desolate from neglect. We watch the clouds and daub with our brushes; We drink wine and write poems. The joyous feelings of this day Will linger long after we have parted. On the thirteenth of the twelfth lunar month of the xinhai year [January 19, 1372], I paid a visit to the lofty hermit Bowan and painted the Woods and Valleys of Mount Yu with a poem in five-character lines as a memento of this trip. Ni Zan