late Yuan (1271–1368)–early Ming (1368–1644) dynasty
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 26 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. (67.9 x 34.3 cm)
Overall with mounting: 91 1/4 x 21 3/8 in. (231.8 x 54.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 91 1/4 x 25 1/8 in. (231.8 x 63.8 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of Darius Ogden Mills and Gift of Mrs. Robert Young, by exchange, 1973
Not on view
Wang Meng is noted for his complex, fully detailed landscapes, but this composition is exceptionally simple, its wiry energetic brushwork sparse but expressive. In both painting and calligraphy, the tremulous hand seems to reflect a restless mind. The painting laments the passing of a lifetime, as does the poem, the last four lines of which read:
When did the fisherman's boat bring me here? Where will I meet the hermits of the Qin dynasty? Springtime ages quickly and flowers are soon gone, Year after year, the river flows relentlessly eastward.
The lines refer to a poem by Tao Qian (365–427) about a fisherman who finds his way to the Peach Blossom Land and meets the descendants of the "hermits of the Qin dynasty" (221–207 B.C.), who had fled there to escape the turmoil of dynastic change. Wang Meng, living through the turbulence surrounding the Yuan dynasty's fall, clearly yearned for a similar sanctuary. When the Ming dynasty was founded in 1368, he tried to serve the new government but fell victim to the first emperor's paranoia, dying in prison in 1385.
Signature: A 7-line poetic inscription by the painter in which he says that in painting the work for Yüandong, he inscribed it with an old poem. [Seal of the artist: Wang Meng Shuming], (intaglio, square):
"Far away among tens of thousands of blue mountains, Red cliffs and green valleys are deep and impenetrable; Through the pine trees the wind brings the sound of a waterfall, From the edge of the sky And smells of flowers mixed in clouds waft through a cave. When did the fishing boat bring me here? And where will I meet the hermits of the Qin dynasty? Springtime is brief and flowers are easily over, And year after year the river flows futilely into the Eastern Sea.
[Signed] The Woodcutter of Yellow Crane Mounting, Wang Shuming painted this for Yuantong and inscribed an old poem on it."
Inscription: An old label set in upper right corner of present mounting reads "Red Cliffs and Green Valleys of Huanghe Shanqiao. Collected and authenticated by the master of Guoyunlou [Gu Wenbin]", followed by one seal.
Marking: Collector's seals:
1. Bi Long (ca. 1790's), one seal 2. Gu Wenbin (1811–1889), two seals 3. C.C. Wang (1907–2003), one seal