Dwelling in the Fu-ch'un Mountains (Wu-yung Version)

Tags: National Palace Museum | painting | Yuan dynasty


Dwelling in the Fu-ch'un Mountains (Wu-yung Version)
Huang Kung-wang (1269-1354), Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Handscroll, ink on paper, 33 x 639.9 cm 
Huang Kung-wang (original name Lu Chien) went by the style name Tzu-chiu and sobriquets Ta-ch’ih and I-feng tao-jen. A native of Ch'ang-shu, Kiangsu, he came from a poor family and was orphaned at an early age. Huang Le of Yung-chia was 90-years-old at the time and without a male heir. Appreciating the talents of the young boy, he treated the child as his own. The Lu family thereupon consented to allow Huang to adopt him and carry on the Huang name. Huang exclaimed by saying "Old Man Huang has always longed for a son," which became the basis of Huang Kung-wang's style name, which translates literally as "Huang's Longing for a Son." Huang Kung-wang was exceptionally gifted as a youth, mastering the Chinese classics at an early age. He also studied Taoism and later became a follower of the Ch'üan-chen sect. Traveling throughout the Sungkiang and Hangchow regions, he made a living by fortune-telling. Like his interest in calligraphy and music, painting was an activity practiced on the side. His landscape paintings are based on the manners of Tung Yüan and Chü-jan, 10th-century artists who depicted the soft rolling landscape of the south. Along with Wu Chen (1280-1354), Ni Tsan (1301-1374), and Wang Meng (1308-1385), Huang Kung-wang is considered one of the Four Great Masters of the Yüan and revered as their spiritual leader.

He worked on the picture on and off when the mood struck him from about 1347 to 1350, when the major portions of this handscroll were completed. This representation of the Fu-ch'un mountains was painted for a fellow Taoist named Master Wu-yung and represents Huang's greatest surviving masterpiece.

Depicted in this handscroll is an idealized panorama of the Fu-ch'un mountains, west of Hangchow, to which Huang returned in his later years. Beginning with a vast expanse of river scenery at the right, we move on to the mountains and hills, then back to areas of river and marsh that end with a conical peak. We finally come to the end of our wandering through the landscape as it ebbs out in the distant ink-wash hills over the water. The composition was first laid out in light ink and then finished with successive applications of darker and drier brushwork. Sometimes shapes were slightly altered, contours strengthened, and texture strokes or tree groups added here and there. Finally, brush dots were distributed across the work as abstracted accents. Buildings, tree limbs and foliage are reduced to the simplest of forms as Nature has been translated into the artist's terms of brush and ink. In his inscription, Huang writes that he created the design in a single outburst of energy.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum