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Landscapes in the style of Ni Zan

Dai Benxiao Chinese

Not on view

Witnessing his father’s death after a failed attempt to resist the Manchus, Dai Benxiao harbored strong loyalist sentiments well into adulthood. His spare painting, constructed with dry contours and minimal shading, evokes a cool otherworldliness that suggests emotional detachment in the wake of dynastic and family tragedy.

According to Dai’s inscription, this painting is a copy from memory of a landscape by the recluse-artist Ni Zan (1306–1374). Ni typically reduces nature to its barest essentials in calligraphic brushstrokes, an aesthetic that Dai adapted here into complex rock formations rendered in the “dry-brush” style. In his inscription he compares this work to a set of ten paintings by Ni that celebrate the exuberance of nature through dense compositions and vigorous brush idioms. Emphasizing the dynamic aspect of Ni’s art, he suspected most of the overly sketchy works attributed to Ni to be forgeries.

cat. no. 57

Landscapes in the style of Ni Zan, Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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