The Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) witnessed the heyday of the landscape painting. Guo Xi (ca. 1000-1080), a court painter during the reign of Emperor Shenzong (1068-1085), was an exceptional representative of his period in terms of both theory and skills of the landscape painting. The special perspective techniques of creating “tall, deep and flat distances” proposed by Guo exerted a great influence on the landscape painting of later generations. Early Spring is Guo’s most famous masterpiece, in which the painter, based on his acute observation of changes of landscape in different seasons, depicted with ink a scene that the land seems to awaken and the trees spring forth just after the winter snow thawed in the mountain. He arranged elements such as mountains, streams, trees and rocks in a standard way, with the primary and secondary distinct. The pine trees in the foreground and mountains in the middle and back lie along the central axis of the vertical scroll, constituting a stable and balanced composition. The painter employed “curled cloud” texture strokes for mountain slopes, while he illustrated trees in “crab claw” forms. The winding landforms and curled branches of pine trees add dynamics to the static scene. Although based on the magnificent and grand landscape of North China, the painter created a sense of elegance and delicacy in this painting of early spring.


  • Title: Early Spring
  • Creator: Guo Xi
  • Date: 1072
  • Provenance: National Palace Museum
  • Physical format: painting, 28.6h x 36.5w cm
  • Medium: colors on silk scroll
  • Dynastic period: Song Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: 1000-1080

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