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Landscape, after the Four Great Yuan Masters

Wan Yuanqi17th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

Each of these four landscapes imitates the style of one of the four great literati painters of the late Yuan dynasty. The painter Wang Yuanqi (1642– 1715) made extensive use of cracked lines created by a dry brush to create a distinctive expression despite basing these four paintings on the works of the four earlier figures: from the right, Huang Gongwang (alias Dachi, 1269–1354), Wang Meng (alias Huanghe Shanqiao, ca. 1308–1385), Wu Zhen (alias Zhonggui, 1280–1354), and Ni Zan (alias Yunlin, 1301–1374). This work reflects the inner qualities of Siwang Wuyun of the early Qing dynasty.
Wang Yuanqi was from Taicang in Jiangsu province. His also used the name Maojing, and his alias was Lutai. He was the grandson of Wang Shimin (1592–1680). In 1670 (Kangxi 9), he passed the civil service examination and was then responsible for the appraisal of paintings for the Qing court. In addition, he was the editor-compiler of the imperially commissioned Peiwenzhai shuhuapu (Catalog of Calligraphy and Painting from the Peiwen Studio). Wang Hui established the Yushan school, and Wang Yuanqi established the Loudong school of painting.
The two scrolls in imitation of Huang and Wang make use of ink and pale colors, and the two scrolls that imitate Wu and Ni only make use of ink alone. The painting technique is characterized by a dry brush with a minimal use of pale ink that is then pressed or rubbed on the paper, the mountains being given form through the contrast of the black shadows against the white. With the exception of the painting after Ni Zan, the remaining three titles recall the painters Dong Yuan (?–ca. 962) and Juran (n.d.), who were active from the Five Dynasties to the Northern Song dynasty, thus conveying his desire to come in touch with the very pinnacle of Chinese landscape painting by working back through the four great masters of the Yuan to Song dynasty.

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