Between 1356 and 1366 Ni Zan led a refugee's life, residing with his family southwest of Suzhou at a place he nicknamed the Snail's Hut. Compared to his Wuxi days, this was "another lifetime," but the family was able to settle down to an existence of "simple sustenance, harmony, and happiness." His paintings and calligraphy from this period are more assured and relaxed; consequently, they sometimes appear sketchy, a characteristic Ni consciously sought: "Try to do things in a sketchy manner. Develop forms with a free hand . . . by following your ideas and feelings."
This painting, made for fellow scholar-artist Yu Kan (active 14th century), reflects Ni's spontaneous manner. Painted the same year Ni's wife died, it may also express the artist's growing sense of isolation. His inscription reads:
On the riverbank, the evening tide begins to fall; The frost-covered leaves of the windblown grove are sparse. I lean on my staff—the brushwood gate is closed and silent; I think of my friend—the glow is nearly gone from the hills.
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Artist’s inscription and signature
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元 倪瓚 江渚風林圖 軸
Title:Wind among the Trees on the Riverbank
Artist:Ni Zan (Chinese, 1306–1374)
Period:Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Medium:Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:Image: 23 1/4 x 12 1/4 in. (59.1 x 31.1 cm) Overall with mounting: 102 1/4 x 22 1/4 in. (259.7 x 56.5 cm) Overall with knobs: 102 1/4 x 27 1/2 in. (259.7 x 69.9 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in standard script)
On the river bank, the evening tide begins to fall; The frost-covered leaves of the windblown grove are sparse. I lean on my staff – the brushwood gate is closed and silent; I think of my friend – the glow is nearly gone from the hills. On the fifteenth day of the ninth month in the guimao year of the Zhizheng era [October 22, 1363] I playfully painted this for Mr. Shengbo [Yu Kan, active ca. 1354] and composed a quatrain too. Ni Zan
Wu Hufan 吳湖帆 (1894–1968), 1 column in standard script, dated 1938; 1 seal:
Wind Among the Trees on the Riverbank, a genuine work by Ni Yunlin [Ni Zan] of the Yuan dynasty. In the spring of the wuyin year , Wu Hufan inscribed the label. [Seal]: Dongzhuang
元倪雲林《江渚風林圖》真跡，戊寅春吳湖帆題籤。 [印]： 東莊
Yu Hang 俞沆 (active early 19th c.), 8 columns in standard script, dated 1826:
Of the so-called Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty, Yunlin [Ni Zan] was the purest in character. His painting and calligraphy, therefore, exhibit an untrammeled subtlety that is unrivaled in the past or the future. This painting for Shengbo, accompanied with a poem, shows his artistry even better. At that time, Yunlin was friends with Zhang Boyu [Zhang Yu, 1283-1350], Ke Jingzhong [Ke Jiusi, 1290-1343] and Wang Shuming [Wang Meng, 1308-1385], but was particularly close to Yu Shengbo, the eighth-generation descendant of Duke Yong[guo] [Yu Yunwen, 1110-1174]. That was why he painted this scroll, which naturally differed from his other works. It was at first in Xiang Molin’s [Xiang Yuanbian, 1525-1590] collection; then it went to Gao Jiangcun [Gao Shiqi, 1645-1704], and was recorded in his Xiaoxia lu. Sometime later it entered Miao Wenzi’s [Miao Yuezao, 1682-1761] collection. Last year [Lü] Songhuo (active early 19th c.), while traveling in Suzhou, traded a certain Ming calligraphic piece for this scroll. He brought it back and showed me, asking for an inscription to record its history. In the sixth year of the Daoguang era , during the last decade of the second month of the bingxu year, Zixian, Yu Hang, inscribed.
 Translation from Department records.  Translation from Department records.
John M. Crawford Jr. American, New York (until d. 1988; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Scholars' Rocks: Gardens, Studios, and Paintings," February 1–August 20, 2000.
New York. China Institute in America. "The Chinese Painter as Poet," September 14, 2000–December 10, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Brush and Ink: The Chinese Art of Writing," September 2, 2006–January 21, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings," March 1–August 10, 2008.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.
Shanghai Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Tang, Song and Yuan Paintings from America," November 3, 2012–January 3, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.
Weng, Wan-go, and Thomas Lawton. Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: A Pictorial Survey: 69 Fine Examples from the John Crawford, Jr. Collection. New York: Dover Publications, 1978, cat. no. 26.
Shih Shou-ch'ien, Maxwell K. Hearn, and Alfreda Murck. The John M. Crawford, Jr., Collection of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Checklist. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984, p. 25, cat. no. 47.
Sun Yueban 孫岳頒 et al. Peiwen Zhai shuhua pu 佩文齋書畫譜 (Encyclopedic compilation of writings on calligraphy and painting of the Peiwen Zhai Studio). Preface dated 1708. Reprinted. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1991, vol. 4, pp. 651–55.
Fong, Wen C. Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, pp. 488–89, pls. 117, 117a.
Bian Yongyu 卞永譽. Shigu Tang shuhua huikao 式古堂書畫彙考 (Studies of calligraphy and painting from the Shigu Tang Studio). Preface dated 1682, juan 7 of painting section. Reprinted in Zhongguo shuhua quanshu 中國書畫全書 (Compendium of classical publications on Chi ptg. & calligr.) Edited by Lu Fusheng 盧輔聖. Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 1993–2000, vol. 7, p. 54.
Wang Keyu 汪砢玉. Wang shi shanhu wang minghua tiba 汪氏珊瑚網名畫題跋 (Inscriptions on famous paintings from the Coral Net). Preface dated 1643. Juan 5. Reprinted in Zhongguo shuhua quanshu 中國書畫全書 (Compendium of classical publications on Chinese painting and calligraphy) Edited by Lu Fusheng 盧輔聖. Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 1993–2000, vol. 5, p. 1072.
Berliner, Nancy. Yin Yu Tang: The Architecture and Daily Life of a Chinese House. Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 2003, p. 15.
Hearn, Maxwell K. How to Read Chinese Paintings. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008, pp. 98–99, cat. no. 22.
Hearn, Maxwell K. Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, , p. 89, fig. 65.
He Muwen 何慕文 (Hearn, Maxwell K.). Ruhe du Zhongguo hua: Daduhui Yishu Bowuguan cang Zhongguo shuhua jingpin daolan 如何读中国画 : 大都会艺术博物馆藏中国书画精品导览 (How to read Chinese paintings) Translated by Shi Jing 石静. Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2015, pp. 98–99, cat. no. 22.
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