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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清 吳歷 墨井草堂消夏圖 卷
Title:Whiling Away the Summer at the Ink-Well Thatched Hut
Artist:Wu Li (Chinese, 1632–1718)
Period:Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
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)
Credit Line:Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Douglas Dillon Gift, 1977
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in semi-cursive script)
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 tenth day of the fourth lunar month of the jiwei year [May 19, 1679]. [Signed] Wu Li 
Yushan Wu Li 漁山吳歷 Yanling 延陵 Li 歷 Yushan 漁山 Wu Li 吳歷
1. Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽 (1881–1968), 1 column in semi-cursive/standard script, undated; 1 seal (mounted on brocade wrapper):
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
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  of the Jiaqing era. Sun Yuanxiang [Seal]: Xinqing Jushi
2. Gu Wenbin 顧文彬 (1811‒1889), 21 columns in standard script, dated 1866; 2 seals:
[Gu Wenbin begins his inscription with two ci-poems not translated here. These ci-poems take the form of an assemblage of lines selected from the compositions of Wu Wenying 吳文英 (hao Mengchuang, ca. 1200‒ca. 1260) and Zhang Yan 張炎 (hao Yutian, 1248‒1320) respectively.]
With the ci-poems in the tune of Duoli on the right, [I] inscribed Wu [Li] Yushan’s picture of 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  date, the revered gentleman was 48 years old. I also have in my possession his [Wu Li’s] composition on the Ben River (a tributary of the Yangzi River near Jiujiang), which was made in the year xinyou , a difference of two years. The brushwork [in both works] is similar in every repect and both were presented to [Xu] Qingyu. The Siyu [Attendant Censor] 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  in the 5th year of the Tongzhi reign period. Gen An Juzhi, Gu Wenbin recorded at the Passing-cloud pavilion. [Seals]: Gu Wenbin yin, Zishan
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 , Ye Gongchuo inscribed, enriched by looking [at it]. [Seal]: Xia An
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 ; 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
 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. Slightly modified. 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–June 14, 1992.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," July 6–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–August 18, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12–August 8, 2004.
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. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Companions in Solitude: Reclusion and Communion in Chinese Art," July 31, 2021–August 14, 2022.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Asia. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 97, pl. 61.
Barnhart, Richard M., Wen C. Fong, and Maxwell K. Hearn. Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat. Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 1996, pp. 162–63, 166–69, 226, cat. no. 34.
Hearn, Maxwell K. How to Read Chinese Paintings. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008, pp. 156–61, cat. no. 35.
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. 156–61, cat. no. 35.
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