Sketches of Twelve Strange Mountain Peaks

Huang Binhong Chinese

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In this album, Huang Binhong uses a remarkably fresh linear style to depict a series of famous mountain sites in China. A consummate literatus, Huang Binhong had his first opportunity to travel extensively when he was in his sixties. He produced thousands of sketches in response to new sights and transformed his style, shedding the traditional vocabulary of brushstrokes, unlearning what he had cultivated for years, to develop through contour drawing a more direct means of depicting what he saw. This series of sketches utilizes the popular travel gazetteer format, typically published in woodblock print editions.

These landscape compositions are "picturesque" in a sense defined by a long tradition of landscape art in China. Huang's means of defining form by delineating edges without texture patterning and recording with the hand what the eye traces, however, is a radical departure for Chinese painting. It proved an interim step for Huang Binhong on his road to a late landscape style in which the qualities of ink were again exploited and ink resumed its traditional place alongside brushline as the paired tools of description and expression.

Sketches of Twelve Strange Mountain Peaks, Huang Binhong (Chinese, 1865–1955), Album of twelve leaves; ink on paper, China

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