Travelers among Streams and Mountains
Wu Li Chinese
Wu Li, one of the six great Orthodox School masters of the early Qing, began his study of ancient paintings with an album owned by the venerable Orthodox painter Wang Shimin (1592–1680). The album, entitled Within Small See Large (Xiaozhong xianda), contained reduced copies of Song and Yuan masterpieces owned by Wang.
In Travelers among Streams and Mountains, probably made in the 1670s, Wu Li carefully copies the album leaf that preserves a composition by the late Yuan master Wang Meng (ca. 1308–1385). Wu’s interpretation gives the work new life, however, through the vigor and spontaneity of his execution. Responding and adjusting to each newly realized brushstroke in a constant interaction between brush, ink, paper, and the observed form, Wu Li’s brushwork and composition grow with the “momentum” and “force” (shi) of the artist’s performance.
In addition to superb brushwork, Wu Li demonstrates a genius for using ink; using different shades of gray, he creates in his landscape the luminous atmospheric quality that is one of his hallmarks.