Cloudy Mountains

Artist: Mi Youren (Chinese, 1074–1151)

Period: Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)

Date: before 1200

Culture: China

Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 10 7/8 × 22 7/16 in. (27.6 × 57 cm)
Overall with mounting: 11 3/16 in. × 24 ft. 6 3/16 in. (28.4 × 747.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1973

Accession Number: 1973.121.1


The son of Mi Fu (1052–1107), Mi Youren was an accomplished scholar-artist and the leading connoisseur of his time, often acting as the authenticator of ancient paintings for the emperor. He rose to the position of vice president of the Board of War. The simplified, blurry mountain forms, which Mi Youren inherited from his father (there is no longer any reliable example of the older Mi's painted work), represent a significant break from the detailed Northern Sung landscape styles. Created with wet ink dots (called "Mi-family dots"), this style of landscape painting is the immediated predecessor of the evocative ink-wash landscape style of the later Southern Song period. Referred to by scholar-artists as "ink play," the style suggests the importance of the painter's psychological expression, thereby raising the status of painting to that of poetry and calligraphy.