Enjoying the Wilderness in an Autumn Grove

Ni Zan Chinese

Not on view

Until the early 1340s, Ni Zan lived the life of a wealthy dilettante, spending his time among the precious books, antiques, and flowers of his Pure and Secluded Pavilion. His painting style at the time, as seen here, exhibits a studied archaism in which his interest in descriptive detail is at odds with his self-conscious use of calligraphic "hemp fiber" brushstrokes in the manner of tenth-century masters. Ni's gentleman seated in a rustic pavilion is shorthand for the scholar in his studio. His florid poem exhibits a similarly precious quality of one entirely absorbed in his immediate surroundings. It reads, in part:

In the bright days, bamboo wave in the breeze;
In the dark nights, parasols of fir hold up the moon.
Burning incense I use [a censer in the form of] a gilded duck;
Gathering scattered petals, I place them inside my pillow.
(trans. Wen Fong)

Enjoying the Wilderness in an Autumn Grove, Ni Zan (Chinese, 1306–1374), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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