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Trees and Crows in Autumn

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium:  ink and color on paper
Format: hanging scroll

Date: 1712
Artist(s): Wang Hui (1632-1717)

Dimensions: 118 × 74 cm

A native of Changshu, Jiangsu province, Wang Hui was the pupil and protégé of Wang Jian (1598-1677) and Wang Shimin (1592-1680). He was particularly noted for his landscape paintings. In 1691, when Wang Hui was about fifty-nine years old, the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) summoned him to court to paint a pictorial record of the emperor's 1689 southern tour of inspection. He joined Wang Shimin (1592-1680), Wang Jian (1598-1677), and Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715) to be called "Four Wangs", who were the nucleus of the orthodox movement characterized by their adherence to the painting styles of classic masters. The "Four Wangs" formalized landscape techniques and structural composition that, to some degree, limited more than expanded the horizons of landscape painting.   
  Painted in 1712, when Wang Hui was about eighty-one years old, this scroll was based on a poem by Tang Yin (1470-1523) describing a densely-layered scene of a dense bamboo grove, a thatched house by the water, trees, and a flock of crows. The crows are depicted fluttering or soaring-the hustle and bustle is a prelude to the profound silence to prevail over the autumn grove. Through the bustling crows, the painter successfully represented the effects described in the poem Entering Ruoye Brook (Ru ruoye xi) by early sixth century poet Wang Ji (d. after 547) to the effect that the chirp of birds renders the mountain more serene. A masterpiece of Wang Hui's late years, this scroll demonstrates not only his consummate brushwork, but also his literati background and aesthetics in favor of a simple and unadorned style that invites leisurely contemplation. Tang Yin's septisyllabic quatrain is written at the scroll's upper left as Wang Hui's self-inscription.

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