Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Landscapes and Trees, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), ca. 1679
    Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689)
    Album of twelve paintings; ink on paper; 6 1/4 x 7 9/16 in. (15.9 x 19.2 cm)
    Facing pages inscribed by the artist
    From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family Collection
    Gift of Wen and Constance Fong, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon, 1979 (1979.499)

    By the mid-1670s, Gong Xian's confidence as a painter had taught him to avoid an overly skillful or popular style. He wrote: "Nowadays when people paint they do only what appeals to the common eye; I alone do not seek to please the present."

    In this album, both paintings and inscriptions attest to Gong's striving after a spiritual communion with earlier masters while creating a pictorial vocabulary all his own. Departing from his densely textured, monumental landscape style of the 1660s, Gong moved toward a sparser manner in which each brushstroke is made to function calligraphically as well as descriptively—embodying both expressive as well as representational meaning. The album's format—paintings accompanied by art-historical comments—reminds us that Gong Xian taught painting for a living.

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  • Landscapes and Trees, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), ca. 1679
    Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689)
    Album of twelve paintings; ink on paper; 6 1/4 x 7 9/16 in. (15.9 x 19.2 cm)
    Facing pages inscribed by the artist
    From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family Collection
    Gift of Wen and Constance Fong, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon, 1979 (1979.499)

    Leaf AA:

    When you are afraid of producing too much painting, you will make a good painting.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)

    Leaf CC:

    Zhang Qian of the Tang dynasty [618–907] made a painting called Ancient Trees in which the brushwork was round and the spirit deep. Not one artist of the Five Dynasties era [907–60] could match him, much less painters of a later age. I try to imitate him.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)

    Leaf EE:

    A monk asked his guest: "What do you do so that there are mountains, rivers, and the great earth in your painting?" The answer was: "Indeed, what do you do so that there will be mountains, rivers, and the great earth in your painting?" A painter who understands this will never be lacking in mountains and valleys.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)

    Leaf FF:

    Nowadays when people paint they only do what appeals to the common eye; I alone do not seek to please the present. I note this with a laugh.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)

    Leaf HH:

    Little by little is better than more and more; this is the advanced stage of a painter. Likewise, the short five-word quatrain is more difficult than any other form of poetry.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)

    Leaf L:

    Among those who talk about hills and valleys today, one out of a hundred may speak of brush and ink, and one out of ten thousand may know about "breath movement." Breath movement is not simply a matter of using ink wash; the density or sparseness of ink wash is still a matter of brush and ink.

    (Translation by Wen Fong)


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