Dong Qichang, one of the most celebrated figures in the history of Chinese art, is equally renowned for his painting, calligraphy, and theoretical writings on painting. In his own work, Dong was an innovative artist who used the elements of traditional landscape painting––line, contour, shading, and spatial relationships—as an abstract, formal vocabulary with which to create a variety of new modes of landscape. In this way Dong single-handedly infused new life into Chinese painting at a time when the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) schools were in decline.
This scroll is Dong’s last dated work, painted when he was seventy-eight years old. The painting’s composition, as well as its idiosyncratic stylistic features, are characteristic of Dong’s mature, highly intellectual style, notably the sharp precipices, bare angular patches, and unexpected spatial juxtapositions of the dry mountain peaks. The form of the mountain that winds vertically up the center of the painting, and the long thin strokes used to define its surface, are recurrent elements in his landscapes. The treatment of certain motifs—the trees, the house, and foreground rocks—is more brittle and drier than in earlier paintings and may be regarded as evidence of Dong’s advanced age.
He Xianggang (Ho Hsiang-kang), Guangdong;
Weng Songnian (Weng Sung-nien, 1647-1728);
Pan Zhengwei (P’an Cheng-wei, 1791-1850);
Gu Wenbin (Ku Wen-pin, 1811-1888);
Ho Kwan-wu, Hong Kong (d. about 1974);
Zhou Huaimin (Chou Huai-min);
Zhang Daqian (Chang Ta-chien, 1899-1983);
Etablissement des Beaux-Arts du Monde, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, since 1979;
(N. V. Hammer, Inc., New York) as agent for the Etablissement des Beaux-Arts du Monde, Vaduz, Liechtenstein;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1980.