Gong Xian (1618-1689), a representative figure of the “Jin Ling (today’s Nanjing City) Painting School,” excelled in landscape painting. Recognized as “White Gong (the painter’s surname)” and “Black Gong,” his painting styles had exerted wide influence on his peers.
This painting belongs to the “White Gong” category, which attaches importance to the elegance and gracefulness of the landscape by use of skillful brush strokes. In this work, the painter achieved a perfect balance between grandeur and emptiness, unveiling a desolate mountain forest in late autumn. The composition of this painting is ingenious. In the foreground, trees sprout out towards different directions, with leaves that were either outlined or dotted. A thatched cottage can be vaguely seen in the dense woods at the foot of the mountain, which implies that this works is based on reclusion. The artist applied the technique of “accumulating ink,” namely, using multiple layers of ink to illustrate rocks and slopes, giving these objects a sense of heaviness and spaciousness. The contrast between light and shadow in this work reflects the influence of western painting techniques which were introduced to China at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is in this way that the expressiveness of this work has been enhanced, and the application scale of ink in painting has also been expanded.