Old Trees, Level Distance

Artist: Guo Xi (Chinese, ca. 1000–ca. 1090)

Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)

Date: ca. 1080

Culture: China

Medium: Handscroll; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: Image: 14 in. × 41 1/8 in. (35.6 × 104.4 cm)
Overall with mounting: 14 3/4 in. × 28 ft. 1/8 in. (37.5 × 853.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of John M. Crawford Jr., in honor of Douglas Dillon, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.276


Guo Xi, the preeminent landscape painter of the late eleventh century, sought to give form to poetic images and emotions and was particularly interested in conveying the nuances of seasons and times of day. Old Trees, Level Distance,a variation on the classic “level-distance” formula of tall foreground trees set against a wide river valley, is probably a late work done for a fellow government official on the eve of his retirement. In the final section of the handscroll, the leafless trees and deepening mist impart a forlorn, autumnal air to a scene in which two elderly figures approach a pavilion, perhaps to join colleagues in bidding farewell to a friend.