清 吳歷 墨井草堂消夏圖 卷
Whiling Away the Summer

Artist: Wu Li (Chinese, 1632–1718)

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: dated 1679

Culture: China

Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 14 5/16 x 105 3/4 in. (36.4 x 268.6 cm)
Overall with mounting: 14 11/16 x 393 1/16 in. (37.3 x 998.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1977

Accession Number: 1977.81

Not on view
In his inscription, Wu Li records that he painted this handscroll one clear morning after a rainfall, sitting alone in his studio thinking of an absent friend. There is a dreamlike quality about the painting: birds, trees, bamboo, mist, and even rocks dance joyously around the hermit-scholar, who sits quietly reading in his idyllic domain. Although he was an ardent admirer of Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), Wu transformed the Yuan painter's "hemp-fiber" texture strokes into a distinctly personal style: cool pale ink textures in intricate contrasting patterns, silhouetted and suspended in space, have been applied with both an athlete's vigor and a poet's gentle cadence.

In 1681, two years after he painted this work, Wu Li was baptized as a Christian, a most uncommon thing to do for a man of his background. Ordained in Macao as a priest in 1688, he was sent in 1689 to do missionary work in Shanghai, where he died in 1718.


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Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in semi-cursive script, dated May 19, 1679):

At the first clearing of the spring rain, [I] sat alone in the early dawn at the Ink-well Thatched Hall; and taking the compositions of “Passing the Summer” of the ancients as my teacher, [I painted this] to send to Mr. [Xu] Qingyu of Piling [Wujin, Jiangsu] in order to gratify my long yearnings after him. The 10th day of the 4th month of the year jiwei [1679]. Wu Li[1]


Artist’s seals

Yushan Wu Li 漁山吳歷
Yanling 延陵
Li 歷
Yushan 漁山
Wu Li 吳歷

Label strips

1. Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽 (1881–1968), 1 column in semi-cursive/standard script, undated; 1 seal (mounted on brocade wrapper):

吳漁山贈許青嶼 《墨井草堂消夏圖》卷。遐翁題。[印]: 恭綽

2. Gu Wenbin 顧文彬 (1811–1889), 1 column in standard script, undated; 1 seal (mounted in front of painting):

Wu [Li] Yushan presented the painting Whiling Away the Summer at the Thatched Hall of the Inkwell to Xu Qingyu. Authenticated and collected by the Master of the Passing Clouds Pavilion [Gu Wenbin]. [Seal]: Guoyun Lou zhu

吳漁山贈許青嶼《墨井草堂消夏圖》。過雲樓主人鑒藏。[印]: 過雲樓主


1. Sun Yuanxiang 孫原湘 (1760–1829), 10 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1820; 1 seal:

Yushan’s [Wu Li’s brush] method follows the tradition of the Yuan masters, [and while] gaining special force from Zijiu’s [Huang Gongwang] Milin douhe [Thick Woods in a Deep Valley], his conception and artistic intention have been realized with independence. When compared to Gengyan [Wang Hui, from the point of view of ] training and maturity, he is not yet as liberated; nevertheless, he has been able to lodge a radiant spaciousness into the weight character – and this is something which Shigu [Wang Hui] has not yet been able to attain! This is probably due to [Wu Li’s] having roamed all the famous mountains all his life and wandered “beyond the ocean” [a reference to Wu Li’s sojourn to Macao]. The scope of his vision has breadth, and so he has been able to purify his spirit and not restrict himself to a limited sphere. When comparing him to those who have confined their methods only to the Song and Yuan masters – what a complete metamorphosis of style has taken place! Whenever Lutai [Wang Yuanqi] talks about painting, he says: “Nowadays, there is only Wu [Li] Yushan.” Given the Sinong’s [Wang Yuanqi] experienced eye, [this statement] ought not to be a whimsical pleasantry. The scroll is here, those who know can see for themselves. A winter’s day of the year gengchen [1820] of the Jiaqing era. Sun Yuanxiang [Seal]: Xinqing Jushi

漁山宗法元人,尤得力於子久《密林陡壑》。意匠獨運,功候似較畊煙稍未脫化,而寓空靈於沈厚,石谷亦未有此境也。蓋其平生徧遊名山,嘗歷海外,眼界空闊,故能蕩滌其心神,不規規於意境,以眂墨守宋、元成法者,風格一變矣。麓臺論畫每語人近日惟吳漁山,司農鉅眼應非偏嗜。此卷具在,識者其鑒諸。嘉慶庚辰冬日虞山孫原湘 [印]: 心青居士

2. 顧文彬Gu Wenbin (1811–1889), 21 columns in standard script, dated 1866; 2 seals:

向垂虹,舊曾送客斜陽。蘸平煙,垂楊漫舞,長絲初染柔黃。掩庭扉,尚廬人境,面屏障,更展芳塘。罨畫簾櫳,枕溪牕牖,青蛇細折小廻廊。艤輕櫂,記穿林窈,愁被矮橋妨。鄰歌散,一竿殘照,寂寞漁鄉。又相逢,煙沙白鷺,幽情暗記蓮房。步虛闌,采花弄水,轉芳徑,傍柳追涼。金井空陰,清尊未洗,冰泉輕瀉翠筒香。夢仙到,碧罘罳外,飛露灑銀牀。閒風月,新詩細搯,醉倚脩篁。[集吳夢窗句] 聼泉聲,和雲流出空山。傍園林,煙霞萬壑,紅塵了不相關。憶芳時,一犁清曉,有忙事,幾處閒田。柳色長條,荷陰未暑,鴛鴦水宿不知寒。望花外,長波垂釣,魚沒浪痕圓。藍橋路,再盟鷗鷺,幾曲闌干。愛吾廬,幽通徑曲,幾番問竹平安。閉門休,應辜舊雨,邃庭悄,吹斷茶煙。近日消磨,清風留住,問天難買是真閒。漫贏得,書床嘯詠,都在臥游邊。引殘夢,趁楊花去,圖畫應難。[集張玉田句]

With the grace of the proceeding themes, [I] inscribed Wu [Li] Yushan’s picture on the Thatched Hall of Inkwell. Yushan’s paintings and Shigu’s [Wang Hui] were of equal fame. [Wu Li] did not regard the matter of painting for others lightly, therefore those [paintings] which are extant today are few and far between. At his abode there was the Mojing [the inky-black well] of Yanzi (the favorite disciple of Confucius), so [he, Wu Li] adopted [it] as his hao [sobriquet or studio name]. This scroll emulates the idea of the compositions on “passing the summer” by the ancients. And while he himself entitled it Mojing caotang [Inkwell Thatched Hall, it] also resembles the Wangchuan composition of Mojie [Wang Wei] and the Shanzhuang [Longmian, the Mountain Hermitage of the Sleeping Dragon] by Boshi [Li Gonglin]. According to the jiwei [1679] date, the revered gentleman was 48 years old. I also have in my possession his [Wu Li’s] composition on the Pen River (a tributary of the Yangzi River near Jiujiang), which was made in the year xinyou [1681], a difference of two years. The brushwork [in both works] is similar in every respect and both were presented to [Xu] Qingyu. The Shiyu [rank of Adviser-in-Attendance] Mr. Xu, whose name is Zhijian, was on terms of deepest friendship with him. [The painting] is a work presented to an intimate, so it is right that he should execute it with such keen insight as this. After the full moon [jiwang] on the 7th month of the year bingyin [1886] in the 5th year of the Tongzhi reign period. Gen An Jushi, Gu Wenbin recorded at the Passing-cloud Pavilion. [Seals]: Gu Wenbin yin, Zishan

右調〈多麗〉,題吳漁山 《墨井草堂圖》。漁山畫與石谷齊名,不輕為人落筆,故傳世者寥寥。所居有言子墨井,因以自號。此卷師古人消夏圖意,自冩墨井草堂,亦猶摩詰之圖輞川、伯時之圖山莊也。按己未公年四十有八。余又藏其《湓江圖》,作於辛酉,相距二年,筆墨正復相類,皆寄贈青嶼許侍御者,侍御名之漸,與公交最深。徇知之作,宜其刻意經營如此。同治五年丙寅七月既望艮菴居士顧文彬識於過雲樓。[印]: 顧文彬印、子山

3. Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽(1881–1968), 4 columns in standard script, dated 1947; 1 seal:

Formerly Shigu [Wang Hui] and Mojing [Wu Li] were equally famous, but I had always praised Wu and disdained Wang because their character and intellect differ so greatly. Mojing’s conversion to Catholicism can be likened to escapism from society: he embraces the concept of allegiance to no political monarch. This is a belief which matches that of Xu Qingyu. Theirs is by no means a superficial friendship. Their literary correspondence especially demonstrates this as well. Hence, the unusual excellence of his execution is certainly something to be treasured. The 4th month of the 36th year of the Chinese Republic [1947], Ye Gongchuo inscribed, enriched by looking [at it]. [Seal]: Xia An

石谷夙與墨井齊名,但吾向揚吳抑王,以胸襟品格迥不相同也。墨井之奉天主教,近乎逃世,懷有不帝秦之意。其与許青嶼相契,亦緣同一信仰,非泛泛之交,其文字往來特以表意耳。但其畫特工,固自可貴。民國三十六年四月葉恭綽獲觀因題。[印]: 遐庵

4. Fei Nianci費念慈 (1855–1905), 1 column in standard script, dated 1905; 1 seal:

The 6th month of the year yisi [1905] in the Guangxu reign period, seen by Fei Nianci of Wujin [Jiangsu]. [Seal]: Yin Zhai

光緒乙巳六月武進費念慈觀。[印]: 趛齋

5. Zhang Daqian 張大千(1899–1983), 8 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1946; 2 seals:

Of the authentic works of Yushan [Wu Li], [I] have seen several in the past twenty years: Tao pu song ju [Pines and Chrysanthemum of Tao Qian] and Kuaiji shu wu [Kuaiji studio] are both in the style of [Wang Meng] Shanqiao. There is also Xingfu An gan jiu tu [Reminiscing on the Past at the Xingfu Retreat] executed for Sheng Yu shangren, which is in the “blue and green” manner after Oubo and his son [Zhao Mengfu and Zhao Yong]. These [three] works are all the world’s great treasures. This [painting] depicting the whiling-away of summer at his own thatched cottage was presented to Xu Qingyu. The ink [blends] harmoniously and the pale [washes suggest] far distances, while the force of the brushwork is engulfed by the whole momentum [of the picture]. The work completely emulates Yan Wengui and lies above and beyond the three paintings mentioned. Perhaps it is because Qingyu is such a complement to him that this is a work only for an intimate and kindred spirit. The first day [shuo] of the 11th month of the year bingxu [1946]; Mr. [Wang] Nanpin took [the painting] out [for me] to see and asked [me] to inscribe it. Zhang Daqian [hao] Yuan of Shu [Sichuan] province. [Seals]: ZhangYuan zhi yin, Daqian

漁山真迹二十年來凡見數本,《陶圃松菊》、《會稽書屋》皆倣山樵,《興福庵感舊圖》為聖予上人作,大青大綠,出入漚波父子,皆為並世至寶。此自寫其《草堂消夏圖》寄許青嶼者,墨韻澹遠,筆勢渾淪,全師燕文貴,遠在三圖之上。蓋青嶼與之至契,乃有此徇知之作也。丙戌十一月朔南屏先生出觀囑題。蜀郡張大千爰 [印]: 張爰之印、大千

Collectors’ seals

Xu Xi徐煕 (active early 19th c.)
Xu Xi 徐熙

Gu Wenbin 顧文彬 (1811–1889)
Gu Zishan miqie yin 顧子山秘匧印
Gu Linshi 顧麟士

Wang Nanping王南屏 (1924–1985),
Wang Nanping yin 王南屏印
Yu Zhai 玉齋

Wang Jiqian王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1906–2002)
Zhenze Wang shi Jiqian shoucang yin 震澤王氏季遷收藏印
Huaiyun Lou jianshang shuhua zhi ji 懷雲樓鑑賞書畫之記
Jiqian xinshang 季遷心賞

Mu Si 穆思 (Earl Morse, 1908–1988
Mu Si zhencang 穆思珍藏
Mu Si shoucang mingji 穆思收藏名迹

Qingfen Shuwu 清芬書屋
Zhuzhuang jiancang 竹莊鑑藏

[1] All the translations are from Roderick Whitfield and Wen Fong, In Pursuit of Antiquity: Chinese Paintings of the Ming and Qing Dynasties from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, Exhibition catalogue, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum, 1969, cat. no. 32, pp. 212–215. The Romanization has been changed from the Wade-Gile to the pinyin system.
[ Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse , New York, until 1977; sold to MMA]
New York. China House Gallery. "Gardens in Chinese Art," March 21, 1968–May 26, 1968.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Paintings of the 15th–18th Century from the Collection of Earl Morse," November 19, 1970–January 4, 1971.

Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," April 19, 1992–June 14, 1992.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," July 6, 1992–September 20, 1992.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," October 15, 1992–January 3, 1993.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.

Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C.C.Wang Family Collection," September 2, 1999–January 9, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings," March 1, 2008–August 10, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.

Asian Art (35,645)