This major work represents the culmination of Wang Shimin’s lifelong study of the paintings of Huang Gongwang (1269–1354). Reducing Huang’s calligraphic style to a graphic formula—rock forms filled with straight, parallel, “hemp-fiber” texture strokes and layers of horizontal dots—Wang Shimin built his kinetic brush patterns into rising and falling, opening and closing, “breath-force” (qishi) movements. Individual texture strokes and foliage dots crisscross, multiplying and expanding until the entire composition turns into a great flowing pattern of undulating forces and counterforces that suggests nature’s boundless energy and growth.
Wang Shimin was the eldest of the “Four Wangs”—the others being Wang Jian (1598–1677), Wang Hui (1632–1717), and Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715). They were the leaders of the Orthodox school of painting in the early Qing period.