Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Whiling Away the Summer, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1679
    Wu Li (Chinese, 1632–1718)
    Handscroll; ink on paper; 14 5/16 x 106 5/16 in. (36.4 x 270 cm)
    Inscribed by the artist
    Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family
    Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1977 (1977.81)

    In his inscription, Wu Li records that he painted this handscroll one clear morning after a rainfall, sitting alone in his studio thinking of an absent friend. There is a dreamlike quality about the painting: birds, trees, bamboo, mist, and even rocks dance joyously around the hermit-scholar, who sits quietly reading in his idyllic domain. Although he was an ardent admirer of Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), Wu transformed the Yuan painter's "hemp-fiber" texture strokes into a distinctly personal style: cool pale ink textures in intricate contrasting patterns, silhouetted and suspended in space, have been applied with both an athlete's vigor and a poet's gentle cadence. In 1681, two years after he painted this work, Wu Li was baptized as a Christian, a most uncommon thing to do for a man of his background. Ordained in Macao as a priest in 1688, he was sent in 1689 to do missionary work in Shanghai, where he died in 1718.

    The opening section of the scroll sets a mood with an expansive vista across rice paddies, moisture-laden trees, and clearing mist after rain.

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  • Whiling Away the Summer, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1679
    Wu Li (Chinese, 1632–1718)
    Handscroll; ink on paper; 14 5/16 x 106 5/16 in. (36.4 x 270 cm)
    Inscribed by the artist
    Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family
    Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1977 (1977.81)

    The middle section focuses on the hermit's rustic villa with all the basic components of a Chinese garden: a lotus pond, verandas, pavilions, a two-story library, and covered corridors that link the various structures. In the back is another courtyard with a kitchen and well. Holes in the plaster walls show that the master of the house is not concerned with external appearances.

    The scroll ends by leading the viewer on a journey through a rocky outcrop and groves of bamboo along a trail that eventually disappears in the distance.


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