This major work represents the culmination of Wang Shimin’s lifelong study of the paintings of Huang Gongwang (1269–1354). Reducing Huang’s calligraphic style to a graphic formula—rock forms filled with straight, parallel, “hemp-fiber” texture strokes and layers of horizontal dots—Wang Shimin built his kinetic brush patterns into rising and falling, opening and closing, “breath-force” (qishi) movements. Individual texture strokes and foliage dots crisscross, multiplying and expanding until the entire composition turns into a great flowing pattern of undulating forces and counterforces that suggests nature’s boundless energy and growth.
Wang Shimin was the eldest of the “Four Wangs”—the others being Wang Jian (1598–1677), Wang Hui (1632–1717), and Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715). They were the leaders of the Orthodox school of painting in the early Qing period.
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清 王時敏 仿黃公望山水圖 軸
Title:Landscape in the style of Huang Gongwang
Artist:Wang Shimin (Chinese, 1592–1680)
Period:Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium:Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:Image: 53 x 22 1/4 in. (134.6 x 56.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 87 3/4 x 28 1/4 in. (222.9 x 71.8 cm) Overall with knobs: 87 3/4 x 31 in. (222.9 x 78.7 cm)
Credit Line:Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1980
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (26 columns in standard script)
Among the students who were listed with my grandfather Wensu on the honors list (of the jinshi examinations) of the year renxu . Very few of their descendants could write except for Mr. Youzhu of Songling, who alone deserved merit in letters and was famous in Jiangzuo [i.e. in Zhejiang and Jiangsu]. I am honored to be in his company and I admire him very much. When he was young he wandered and did not settle, and when he became older he retired to the country where there was no way for me to make his acquaintance. In mid-autumn of the year gengzi , because the monk Lingyan moved to Huqiu in [Wu]xi, I had a chance to meet him at the abbot’s place. We grasped hands and spoke of the past with as much pleasure as if we had known each other all our lives. During our conversation, he asked me for one of my stupid paintings. There upon I promised this, but then because I was transferred several times, and calamities contributed to fill my breast with anxiety, and illnesses all collected and bore down upon me, I did not keep my promise for six years, not doing anything in reply. Recently he wrote again to urge me and moreover sent me a work by his father. Receiving his favors and generosity increased my shame yet more, and one day when the clouds lifted and my window was clear, I forced myself to wipe my eyes and wash away the dust, and applied myself to copying Zijiu’s [Huang Gongwang’s, 1269–1354] brush conception, making a small picture which I send, begging for correction. I laugh and am ashamed of this ugly thing; how can it be worthy to be presented for criticism? I remember that our ancestors were linked in the world of literature; at the best time they were as close as the mouth-pipe and the bamboo flute; they were of like mind as orchid and fragrant grass: how happy they were! Now of their heirs and grandsons there are only two of us left, both of us white-haired after grief, disturbance and parting, and an excess of successive calamities. We were predestined to meet again. By means of brush and ink we express the thoughts of our hearts. How can this be accidental? Looking both at the times as they were then and as they are now, I cannot contain my sadness. In the year bingwu , early in spring, the younger brother Wang Shimin recorded, at the age of seventy-five.
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