Huang Binhong is generally acknowledged as the most important painter of the scholarly tradition in the 20th century. Described as “dark, dense, deep and weighty”, his paintings are unique not only in Chinese art, but in the entire corpus of world art.
“The ‘darkness’ in Huang Binhong’s landscapes was the crystallization of his wisdom; the ‘denseness’ was his brushwork made more profound by his artistic explorations; the ‘fullness’ was the mystical transformation of his use of ink in old age.” His paintings, whether of mist and rain in Jiangnan, mountains and valleys in the still of night, or steep gorges in deep seclusion, are all “masses of ink within masses of darkness, expanse of earth and sky within masses of dark ink’, as Shitao had described in a poem. When we look at any of Huang’s paintings done in his late years, we see layer upon layer of dots, and layer upon layer of washes. The dots were not done for their own sake, or merely to enrich the surface of the painting. By the time he was seventy, Huang had already grasped the relationship between dot and wash on the one hand and vitality and resonance on the other, as he revealed in a poem: “With texturing and dotting strokes, I have recreated the mountains in their magnificence. Discovering this technique at the age of seventy, I can now say my artistic sojourn since my enlightenment on Jialing River is not in vain.”