Image: 16 15/16 x 322 7/8 in. (43 x 820.1 cm)
Overall with mounting: 15 7/16 x 170 1/8 in. (39.2 x 432.1 cm)
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Not on view
Between 1923 and 1925 Li Kuchan attended the National Art Academy in Beijing, where he studied Western painting under Xu Beihong (1895–1953) and Chinese painting under Qi Baishi (1864–1957). From 1930 to 1934 Li taught at the Hangzhou Art Academy as a colleague of Pan Tianshou (1897–1971). He then returned to Beijing and became a professor of painting at the Central Academy. This work, created at the height of the Cultural Revolution, graphically conveys Li's determination to preserve his dignity in the face of persecution. While his accompanying comments seem humorous, they cannot disguise the spirit of proud defiance embodied by the symbols of endurance and survival he has chosen to depict.
Signature: Signature: Kuchan, in his 75th year Dated: the second day of the fifth month of 1972
Artist's inscriptions and seals: Section one: Plum and Pine Pure plum and virgin pine are examples for society. They endure forever. Seals: 1. Chanfu (rectangular, white characters) 2. Done after my 70th year (rectangular, red characters)
Section two: Bamboo and Orchid The orchid has fragrance and bamboo has dignity. Seals: Lishi Kuchan (rectangular, white characters)
Section three: Cabbages and Lotus Eating this vegetable often toughens the teeth. What comes out of the mud without stain stands straight and has stable roots. Seal: Seal of Li Ying (square, white characters)
Section four: Magpies and Eagle I have not painted for a long time, which gives some trouble to my wrists. Paintings like this are only worth a laugh. Dedicated to Rongkuan Seals: 1. Kuchan (square, red characters) 2. Seal of Li Ying (square, white characters)
Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection (each section)
Robert H. Ellsworth , New York (until 1986; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Between Two Cultures: A Selection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," January 30, 2001–August 19, 2001.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Millennium of Chinese Painting: Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," September 8, 2001–January 13, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "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.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Four Seasons," January 28, 2006–August 13, 2006.