By the late nineteenth century, when the little-known painter Du Xiang made this album, artists had been engaging with the same old-master styles for centuries, and the possibilities for an original contribution appeared to be running out. Nevertheless, Du persisted, creating something fresh and new by magnifying manners and exaggerating forms. See, for instance, the second leaf, in which the tenth-century artist Li Cheng’s classic composition of twin pines backed by mountains has been rendered as a tipsy, whimsical fantasia of lines unlike anything seen before or since.
Signature: a) signed: Youxie; seal: Dushi (oval, red characters)
b) signed: Yanju, laoyou; dated Spring 1878; seals: 1. Dushi (square, red characters); 2. Xiang (square red characters); inscription: Done in the style of Li Yingqiu [Li Cheng, 919–967]
c) seal: Du Xiang (square, white characters)
d) signed: Yanhu laoyou at Mojing Studio; seals: Dushi (square, red characters); Xiang (square red characters)
e) seal: Xiang (square, red characters)
f) signed: Youxie; seals: Xiang (square, red characters); inscription: Done in the style of Huanghe shanqiao [Wang Meng, 1308–1385]
g) signed: Yanhu laoyou; dated Spring 1878; seals: 1. Dushi (square, red characters); 2, 3. Xiang (square, red characters) inscription (poem, four lines, five-character meter): See the end of the pine forest. Where will the white clouds go? Spring mountains are always green. The painting screen is surrounded by morning clouds.
Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (each leaf)
Robert H. Ellsworth , New York (until 1986; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Painting: Selections from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," February 2, 1988–September 25, 1988.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.