Stately Pines on Mount Hua

Artist: Shi Lu (Chinese, 1919–1982)

Date: ca. 1972

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: 53 3/4 x 27 3/8 in. (136.6 x 69.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.267.351


Having openly criticized the Gang of Four in 1969, Shi Lu took refuge in the wilderness near Xi'an. After a year he sought asylum in the hospital where he had been treated earlier for schizophrenia and alcoholism.
In the early 1970s his compositions were distilled to a new clarity. His highly individual technique of pushing the brush like a carver's tool became more expressive. He repeatedly found inspiration in China's sacred western peak Mount Hua, whose name is synonymous with the enduring character of both the landscape and the nation. The theme of Shi Lu's poem is noble spirits persevering in the face of adversity:
I love the many pines on Mount Hua,
Tall, noble, and dignified,
Their trunks climbing skyward to compete with the sun
and moon.
Weathering the bitter winds,
Shaking their branches, they reach for the border of heaven.
Bestride blue dragons, they hold their heads aloft.
Lifting the clouds they stand.
Ceaselessly they push against the sky.
(Wen Fong, trans., Between Two Cultures: Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art [New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001], pp. 234-37)