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Shitao (Zhu Ruoji)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper
Image (each): 6 1/2 × 4 1/8 in. (16.5 × 10.5 cm)
Each leaf with painting: 8 5/16 × 5 5/16 in. (21.1 × 13.5 cm)
Each double leaf unfolded: 8 5/16 × 10 5/8 in. (21.1 × 27 cm)
From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family, Gift of Wen and Constance Fong, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon, 1976
This gemlike work demonstrates both Shitao’s mastery of the album format and his ability to innovate within it. Landscape scenes alternate with tightly cropped floral vignettes, taking the viewer on a rollercoaster ride with each turn of the page. Shitao’s calligraphy, too, changes with each leaf, seeming to mirror the shifts in content and style. The artist created this work after he had abandoned his dream of finding fame in Beijing and returned south to become a professional painter. The journey, which begins in the first leaf with a landscape scene, culminates in leaf five, with a man in a boat—almost certainly Shitao himself—passing through a desolate river landscape, before finding resolution in the final image of a single narcissus.
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