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The Simple Retreat

Wang Meng (Chinese, ca. 1308–1385)

Period:
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Date:
ca. 1370
Culture:
China
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 53 3/4 x 17 5/8 in. (136.5 x 44.8 cm) Overall with mounting: 101 1/4 x 24 3/4 in. (257.2 x 62.9 cm) Overall with knobs: 101 1/4 x 28 11/16 in. (257.2 x 72.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Oscar L. Tang Family, 2012
Accession Number:
2012.526.2
  • Description

    Wang Meng depicted scholars in their retreats, creating imaginary portraits that capture not the physical likeness of a person or place but rather an interior world of shared associations and ideals. He presented the master of Simple Retreat as a gentleman recluse. Seated at the front gate of a rustic hermitage, he is shown holding a magic fungus, as a servant and two deer approach from the woods. In the courtyard, another servant offers a sprig of herbs to a crane. The auspicious Daoist imagery of fungus, crane, and deer as well as the archaic simplicity of the figures and dwelling evokes a dreamlike vision of paradise.

    In creating this visionary world, Wang transformed the monumental landscape imagery of the tenth-century master Dong Yuan. Rocks and trees, animated with fluttering texture strokes, dots, color washes, and daubs of bright mineral pigment, pulse with a calligraphic energy barely contained within the traditional landscape structure. Encircled by this energized mountainscape, the retreat becomes a reservoir of calm at the vortex of a world whose dynamic configurations embody nature's creative potential but may also suggest the ever-shifting terrain of political power.

  • See also
    Who
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    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
39550:4

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