Bamboo and rocks

Li Kan Chinese

Not on view

Li Kan was a northern Chinese who entered the service of the Mongol government at an early period and rose to a high position in the Yuan court. The author of an authoritative treatise on bamboo painting, Li stated that the painter must possess "the complete bamboo in [his] breast," and he urged statesmen to take up bamboo painting to discipline their minds and expand their breadth of vision.

Li completed these panels in 1318, the year the Mongol regime reinstituted the civil-service examinations, the chief means for scholars to gain access to official positions. The painting is done in the shuangou, or "double-outline," style of bamboo painting. This technique, in which finely drawn ink outlines are filled in with dense mineral pigments, was ideally suited to Li Kan's intense identification with bamboo. Minutely observed and intricately rendered, these noble plants take on a heightened sense of reality that approaches portraiture.

#7715. Bamboo and Rocks

Bamboo and rocks, Li Kan (Chinese, 1245–1320), Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on silk, China

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