Artist: Wang Hui (Chinese, 1632–1717)
Calligrapher: Inscribed by Wang Hui (Chinese, 1632–1717)
Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date: dated 1669
Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions: Image: 44 3/8 x 14 1/8 in. (112.7 x 35.9 cm)
Overall with mounting: 89 1/4 x 20 7/8 in. (226.7 x 53 cm)
Overall with knobs: 89 1/4 x 24 1/8 in. (226.7 x 61.3 cm)
Credit Line: Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, in honor of Professor Wen Fong, 1978
Accession Number: 1978.13
Defying the dictum of the authoritative theorist Dong Qichang (1555–1636) that "in painting it is better to be descriptively obscure rather than to be obvious," Wang Hui regarded calligraphic abstraction and mimetic representation as "the two wings of a bird." Inspired by Li Cheng's (919–967) descriptive idiom of jagged rock formations and spiky "crab-claw" wintry trees, which demand representational skill as well as calligraphic discipline, Wang's perfectly controlled lyrical composition—a snowscape of enchanted stillness-celebrates the beauty of nature.
Painted for Zhou Lianggong (1612–1672), a high-ranking official who was facing unjust charges of corruption, Wang's choice of the Li Cheng style was significant. Li's winter landscapes had long been viewed as emblems of survival in the face of adversity, so Wang's painting may be read as an expression of sympathy and encouragement.