Snow Clearing: Landscape after Li Cheng, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1669
Wang Hui (Chinese, 1632–1717)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper; 43 5/8 x 14 in. (110.8 x 35.5 cm)
Inscribed by the artist
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, in honor of Professor Wen Fong, 1978 (1978.13)
Defying the authoritative theorist Dong Qichang's dictum that "in painting it is better to be descriptively obscure rather than obvious," Wang Hui regarded calligraphic abstraction and mimetic representation as "the two wings of a bird." In this northern landscape, he employed Li Cheng's "rocky mountain" idiom of jagged "devil-face" rock formation and spiky "crab-claw" wintry trees, which demands representational skill more than mere calligraphic strength. The enchanted stillness of the snow scene reveals his gift for lyricism as well.
Wang Hui painted this scroll for Zhou Lianggong (1612–1672), a high-ranking official who was facing the death sentence for charges of corruption at the time. His choice of Li Cheng's style was significant. Li Cheng's winter landscape had long been considered emblems of survival in the face of adversity. Wang Hui might have intended to express both his sympathy for Zhou's plight and his encouragement to survive through his painting. The bleakness of the snowscape mirrored Zhou's perilous circumstances, which must have been particularly appealing to Zhou. It did not merely depict the cold seasonal atmosphere, but also evoked a deeper layer of human emotion.
Wang Hui's inscription reads: "In the jiyou year  on the twenty-second day of xiaochun [the tenth lunar month], while about to set out for Nanjing in a boat anchored at Piling [Jiangsu], I did this Snow Clearing after Li Cheng under candlelight."