Gao Cen (Chinese, active 1643after 1682)
Album of ten paintings: ink and color on silk; Each leaf 8 1/8 x 8 3/8 in. (20.5 x 21.3 cm)
Purchase, C. C. Wang Gift, 2007 (2007.50)
Gao Cen was among the most accomplished of the so-called Eight Masters of Nanjing. He specialized in small-scale, gemlike paintings executed in an intricate, descriptive style that highlighted the scenery of the city. Perpetuating a tradition of topographic painting practiced during the late Ming period, Gao produced works to supply the growing demand for mementos of Nanjing's fabled sights, including places with nostalgic links to the city's glory days under the Ming. A sensitive recorder of the familiar, Gao was also an innovative experimenter with light, atmosphere, and color whose art reflects a creative response to Western influences introduced by Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci (15521610). Gao's wistful, atmospheric landscapes are noteworthy for seamlessly fusing descriptive realism and poetic feeling to achieve exquisite evocations of place and mood.
Gao's works are rare today, and this album, which captures Nanjing's scenery at different times of year and in varied weather conditions, is one of his finest. Created in 1677, at the peak of his career, these paintings combine lyrical suggestions of actual scenery with creative transformations of antique styles.