Recluse gazing at a waterfall

Ju Jie Chinese

Not on view

Ju Jie, a native of Suzhou, studied painting with Wen Jia (1501–1583) but also received instruction from Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), whose style he emulated so successfully that people considered him the master's most talented pupil. After refusing a summons from the eunuch manager of Suzhou's Imperial Silk Manufactury, however, Ju Jie's family was forced into poverty. He subsequently built a small home at the foot of Tiger Hill and lived out his life in relative poverty and ill health—as attested to by his inscription:

In the jiwei year of the Jiajing reign on the day of Mild Cold [December 29, 1559] Xuanjin dropped by and produced this paper, pressing me for a painting by my clumsy brush. At the time I was ill and had long neglected brush and inkstone. In a disorderly way I daubed and rubbed; surely one must find it awful. May Xuanjin not be offended with my soiling his beautiful paper.

(trans. after Aschwin Lippe)

Executed in exquisitely pale, dry brushwork with occasional accents of dark ink, this painting showcases Ju Jie's mastery of Wen Zhengming's refined monochrome landscape style. In Ju's interpretation, however, the dense skein of trees and rocks presents an almost impenetrable web of surface patterns that is scarcely alleviated by the widening stream at the bottom of the composition, where a single figure sits admiring the view.

Recluse gazing at a waterfall, Ju Jie (Chinese, active ca. 1531–1585), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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