Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Painting: 79.6 x 39.4 cm (31 5/16 x 15 1/2 in.); Overall: 215.8 x 52 cm (84 15/16 x 20 1/2 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1953.629
Wang Hui copied masterworks, even by artists not generally favored at the time, and digested their styles with boundless energy and unceasing virtuosity. He had an ability to assimilate a vast repertoire of sources, styles, and approaches into a “grand synthesis.”
Wang Hui had such enduring affection for a painting by Yuan dynasty master Wang Meng 王蒙 (c. 1308-1385) that between 1686 and 1712, he created several copies with varying levels of engagement and faithfulness to the prototype. Here, his appropriation encompassed not only the pictorial portion but the earlier painting’s inscriptions as well. Wang Meng had written that he was trying to resuscitate the style of an earlier artist, Wen Tong; here Wang Hui sought to revive Wang Meng as well as Wen Tong.
The original painting still exists in the Erickson Collection in Stockholm, Sweden, so the two can be compared, revealing Wang Hui’s transformations. Some of the compositional adjustments may be explained by Wang Hui’s choice of shorter and broader paper than on the prototype. He reversed the Yuan master's composition, shifting the background mountains to the right side and reorganizing the foreground into a broader expanse of space. He also moved the seated scholar out of his pavilion into the center of the landscape by the stream.
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