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Red Cliffs and Green Valleys

Wang Meng (Chinese, ca. 1308–1385)

Period:
late Yuan (1271–1368)–early Ming (1368–1644) dynasty
Date:
ca. 1367
Culture:
China
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:
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)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of Darius Ogden Mills and Gift of Mrs. Robert Young, by exchange, 1973
Accession Number:
1973.121.7
  • Description

    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.

  • See also
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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