On View: The Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove

By Anita Chung Curator of Chinese Art

The Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove

The Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove Undated, c. 1943 Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper 64.7 × 75 cm Nanjing Museum

The subject of this painting is a group of third-century scholars and poets who retreated to nature, using wine, music, poetry, and Daoist-oriented “pure conversation” (qingtan) to escape from the corrupt political world. Here, Fu painted the dense, luxuriant bamboo grove using fine brushstrokes in various ink tonalities further enriched by careful toning of green color washes. The seven worthies and an attendant appear in light-filled voids in the bamboo grove, as if the moon is casting a silvery light on them, reflecting their peaceful solace. The effect of light and atmosphere show that Fu was inspired by modern Japanese paintings of refreshing, naturalistic landscapes that also indirectly reflected the impact of Western art. In so doing, Fu gave new vitality to his modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese theme. Although this painting is not dated, Fu painted several similar versions during 1943–45; this one is close in style to those dated 1943. That year, Fu and his circle of friends created an interesting caricature in fine-line drawing (baimiao) titled The Seven Worthies Coming Out of the Grove, a modern adaptation of the theme and a delightful work commemorating the gatherings of kindred spirits in wartime Chongqing.


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