Cultivated Landscapes: Reflections of Nature in Chinese Painting with Selections from the Collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill

September 10, 2002–February 9, 2003

Shared Cultural Ideals Under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty

Under the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), when many educated Chinese were barred from government service, the model of the Song literati retreat evolved into a full-blown alternative culture, as this disenfranchised elite transformed their estates into sites for literary gatherings and other cultural pursuits. These gatherings were frequently commemorated in paintings which, rather than presenting a realistic depiction of an actual place, conveyed the shared cultural ideals of this reclusive world through a symbolic shorthand in which a villa might be represented by a humble thatched hut. In Simple Retreat, by Wang Meng (ca. 1308–1385), the artist's naïve vision of a rustic hermitage employs an archaistic primitivism to convey his longing for the lost innocence of an idyllic golden age.