During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the city of Suzhou became the center for a group of painters known as the Wu school. Lu Zhi was distinguished among these artists for an eclectic style that combined elements from both the amateur (literati) and professional traditions. He was known for his paintings of landscapes and his depictions of flowers, and was also noted as a superb colorist.
This large landscape dates from Lu Zhi’s late years and is thought to depict his own villa. The subject is a traditional literati theme of a scholar playing the qin (Chinese lute) for his guest within a walled enclosure, while nearby a servant can be seen tending chrysanthemums. The composition is neat, uncluttered, and compartmentalized, reflecting a mode of landscape painting cultivated among Suzhou artists. The use of a tall central mountain, however, shows Lu Zhi’s dependence on Northern Song (960–1127) landscape composition. The angular strokes that cross and interweave give the rocks multifaceted surfaces. The charming naiveté that pervades the picture suggests a departure from reality that is consistent with Lu Zhi’s reputation as a man who was properly educated but had little interest in official government position. The painting’s impression of otherworldliness seems a comment on the character of the artist and his desire to disengage himself from worldly affairs.
(Jean-Pierre Dubosc [1904-1988], Kamakura) by 1956;
(James Freeman, Kyoto) as agent for Jean-Pierre Dubosc;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1981.