Handscroll, ink on paper
Image: 29.3 x 297.2 cm (11 9/16 x 117 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1979.76
Fa Ruozhen was a scholar-official and prolific poet who focused on painting as his government career declined. The inscription records that he was 78 years old when he painted this handscroll to welcome visitors on a snowy day. At this point in his artistic development, Fa created expressive landscapes and experimented with unconventional brushwork. This handscroll begins at the right with gentle hills dotted with evergreens and bare deciduous trees. By the end, the twisting rocky forms dominate.
Fa’s official career spanned the fall of the Han Chinese Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and the rise of the Manchurian Qing dynasty (1644–1911). While other scholar-officials who declined to serve the Manchus had their reputations enhanced, critics accused Fa of disloyalty for serving in the new bureaucracy. Fa was deeply sensitive about this criticism. In many of his 4,000 known poems, he responded by emphasizing the Confucian virtue of being a good administrator particularly during an unstable time. Fa’s “disorderly” brushwork and distressed landscapes seem to reflect the political upheaval of his era.
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