Wang Hui, the most celebrated painter of late seventeenth-century China, played a key role both in reinvigorating past traditions of landscape painting and in establishing the stylistic foundations for the imperially sponsored art of the Qing court. Drawing upon his protean talent and immense ambition, Wang developed an all-embracing synthesis of historical landscape styles that constituted one of the greatest artistic innovations of late imperial China.
This comprehensive study of the painter, the first published in English, features three essays that together consider his life and career, his artistic achievements, and his masterwork—the series of twelve monumental scrolls depicting the Kangxi emperor's Southern Inspection Tour of 1689. The first essay, by Wen C. Fong, closely examines Wang Hui's genius for "repossessing the past," his ability to engage in an inventive dialogue with previous masters and to absorb their stylistic personae while making works that were distinctly his own. Chin-Sung Chang next traces the entire trajectory of Wang's development as an artist, from his precocious youth in the village of Yushan, through growing local and national fame—first as a copyist, then as the creator of groundbreaking panoramic landscapes—to the ultimate confirmation of his stature with the commission to direct the Southern Inspection Tour project. Focusing on this extraordinary eight-year-long effort, Maxwell K. Hearn's essay discusses the contemporary sources for the scrolls, the working methods of Wang and his assistants (comparing drafts with finished versions), and the artistic innovations reflected in these imposing works, the extant examples of which measure more than two feet high and from forty-six to eighty-six feet long.
Presented in this volume are twenty-seven of Wang Hui's major paintings, including two of the Southern Inspection Tour scrolls, drawn from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and from museums in Beijing, Taipei, Shanghai, the United States, and Canada. These are supplemented by a wealth of comparative images that range from ancient Chinese paintings and seventeenth-century woodblock maps to works by present-day artists. Invaluable information is provided by a scholarly catalogue, compiled by Shi-yee Liu, Research Associate in the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum, which details the inscriptions, colophons, signatures, and seals of each work.