This seasonal landscape is from a set of four hanging scrolls by Ren Yu. He was the youngest, most eccentric, and least prolific of the Four Rens, a family of prominent painters in Shanghai during the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Perhaps due to his opium habit and subsequent financial difficulties, Ren Yu tended to be lackadaisical in his work. The few remaining high-quality paintings hint at his artistic potential lost to opium.
Though Ren’s premature death left his artistic promise unfulfilled, his paintings were acquired and donated to the museum by Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919), a wealthy businessman and art collector from Detroit. As Freer had hoped, this donation of Ren Yu paintings inspired the young Cleveland Museum of Art to continue to expand its own Chinese painting collection.
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