Returning to Nature through a Reclusive Life, dated 1996
Yu Peng (Chinese, born 1955)
Hanging scroll: ink and color on paper; 91 3/8 x 20 7/8 in. (232 x 53 cm)
Gift of David Solo, in honor of Maxwell K. Hearn, 2007 (2007.482)
Yu Peng belongs to the first generation of artists born in Taiwan after the Nationalist government reestablished itself on the island in 1949. Like many of his contemporaries, Yu often addresses the politically fraught issue of cultural identity. He lives in Taipei but often asserts his mainland Chinese heritage in his art, which explores both the legacy of his historic homeland and the disjunction between the "literati" lifestyle of an idealized past and the materialistic values of the present. Returning to Nature through a Reclusive Life is both whimsical and satirical, part autobiography and part fantasy, freely mixing antique models with images of modern life. Employing a traditional format and medium, Yu divided his composition roughly into thirds. The central section is dominated by a seated figure—perhaps the artist—posed and dressed to resemble a scholar-gentleman but wearing modern eyeglasses. Above him is a vast unpopulated landscape of densely textured mountains that recalls the idiom of the recluse artist Wang Meng (ca. 1308–1385), while the lower third of the painting is filled with figures, some naked, some clothed, in an elaborate garden setting.