Fa Ruozhen is known for his fantastical mountainscapes permeated with clouds. This imposing landscape, painted in 1684 when the artist was seventy-two years old and still in his prime, is an exceptionally well-realized composition by this important scholar-artist of the early Qing dynasty. While most of Fa's paintings are on paper, this work is executed on silk, which suggests that it was intended for an important recipient.
Like a great cumulonimbus cloud, the landscape billows upward in roiling layers of earth punctuated by misty vales harboring half-concealed groves of trees. The composition is conceived in the classic "three distances" manner, with foreground trees and piled-up boulders giving way to a ridge line in the middle ground that is in turn overshadowed by distant rugged peaks. But Fa flattened forms and compressed distances to maximize the verticality of his restless landscape. Aided by the stream that meanders through the mountains, the judiciously placed passages of mist and cloud sustain the illusion of separation between the three distances, giving depth and mass to the agitated outcrops.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signatures (1 column in semi-cursive script)
In mid-autumn of the jiazi year (1684), the Old Man from the Yellow Mountain inscribed this at the age of seventy-two.
Fa Ruozhen yin 法若真印 Huangshi 黃石
Private collection , Japan (until sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy; November 29, 2009, lot 833, to Arnold Chang for MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.