A unique landscape painting in the existing body of Chen Hongshou’s art, this painting reveals his involvement with the practice of fang (imitation) to achieve creative transformation. Chen acquired the tradition stemming from Dong Yuan of the Five Dynasties, with which he sought an artistic individuality that lends his work an idiosyncratic vision and extraordinary power.

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  • Title: The Mountain of Five Cataracts
  • Creator: Chen Hongshou (Chinese, 1598/99-1652)
  • Date Created: 1650
  • Physical Dimensions: Painting: 118 x 53 cm (46 7/16 x 20 7/8 in.); Overall: 232.4 x 69.7 cm (91 1/2 x 27 7/16 in.)
  • Provenance: Gao Shiqi 高士奇 [1644–1703], Guan Mianjun 關冕鈞 [1870–1933], (Walter Hochstadter [1914–2007], New York, NY, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1966.366
  • Medium: hanging scroll, ink on silk
  • Original Title: 五洩山
  • Inscriptions: Artist's signature and seal at middle right edge: Hongshou [seal] Zhanghou 洪绶 [印]章侯, 1 inscription and 6 additional seals: 1 inscription and 5 seals of Gao Shiqi 高士奇 (1645-1704); 1 double seal (undecipherable). Inscription by Gao Shiqi: The Mountain of the Five Cataracts is bordered by three prefectures--Wu [Jinhua], Hang [Hangzhou], and Yue [Shaoxing]--and is quite close to Jiyang [Zhuji] in Yue. The landscape there is extraordinary and precipitous, with ridges and peaks standing in circles. Rocks of strange shapes gaze down everywhere, while maple and bamboo provide shade. The water from five pools overflows and is suspended in five steps--that is why it is called "Five Cataracts." Xie Yuanqing [Xie Tiao 謝朓, ca. 464-499] of the Qi Dynasty gathered medicinal herbs here; Diao Jingchun [Diao yue 刁約, 11th century] of the Song Dynasty also visited here; Song Jinhua [Song Lian 宋濂, 1310-1381] and Xu Tianchi [Xu Wei 徐渭, 1521-1593] both wrote travel notes about the place; and Chen Hongshou painted here. His mountains are done in the style of the Six Dynasties masters; the trees are after those of Dong Beiyuan [董源 Dong Yuan, Five Dynasties]--the painting seems to be richly imbued with the primeval spirit. Xu Wei said that the grotto is unique for the shade (yin) and the five cataracts unusual for the sun (yang). There are seventy-two peaks, with a ravine between two cliffs. At times they are bright and at other times, gloomy; sometimes they seem to be open, sometimes closed, yet often border uniquely between shady (yin) and sunny (yang). Zhanghou [Chen Hongshou] really succeeded in capturing that spirit. As a young man indulgently boating through Shanyin [Shaoxing], I became familiar with the beauty of the Five Cataracts. The cold streams, when level, become pools clear as crystal. Pouring foam mingled with flying waterfall, Its shapes constantly changing. Water would flow downward without a sound, Or become raging billows emitting echoes. Sometimes the wind from the sky would wail, The green forest during the day would turn dark. Sometimes it was dangerous and difficult to ascend, For the moss was slippery on the stone steps in those precipitous cliffs. After reading the travel notes of Sung [Lian] and Xu [Wei], I'm afraid their descriptions are incomplete. Yet when Laolian [Chen Hongshou] was seized with the inspiration to paint, His brush and ink moved with exhilaration. It is as if mists have risen From a hot cooking pot, gradually opened. By hanging this on a plain wall, One can clearly listen to the quiet night. At the end of the year, ice and snow are deep; The cold air in the quiet studio is frozen. Near the fireplace, I make with it a silent, spiritual acquaintance Burning incense and striking a lucid ching [stone chime]. On the eighteenth day of the twelfth month in the yimao year of the Kangxi era [1699]. Jiangcun, Gao Shiqi. Zhuchuang inscribed this at Zhe in the Lan Jing studio. It was the third day after the beginning of spring. trans. LYSL/HK/WKH
  • Department: Chinese Art
  • Culture: China, Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
  • Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
  • Collection: ASIAN - Hanging scroll
  • Accession Number: 1966.366

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