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Mountains, Pine Trees, and Recluse

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

Date: 1661
Artist(s): Wang Shimin (1592-1680)

Dimensions: 79 × 47.8 cm

A native of Taicang, Jiangsu province, Wang Shimin was born the grandson of Wang Xijue, a Prime Minister of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). His father, Wang Heng, served as Junior Compiler (bianxiu) of the Hanlin Academy at the Ming court. He earned his "presented scholar” (jinshi) degree in the Imperial Examination of 1601, and was appointed to serve in the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (taichang si) because of his father's prestigious service. Later he was promoted to Vice Director (shaoqing) of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices. After the Manchus conquered China proper in 1644, he retired and stayed aloof from court service. He had a particular passion for poetry and essays, and also assembled an extensive art collection. As a painter, he was particularly proficient in landscapes, and inherited the legacies of masters Dong Yuan (d. 962), Juran (act. ca. 10th c.), Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) and the Mi family. His landscapes are imposing and elegant. Yet there is a general lack of diversity in his depiction of mountains and hills. He was a leading figure of the landscapists who later came to be called "Six Masters of the Early Qing”.
  According to the inscription, the scroll is dedicated to Wang Shimin's close friend Jin Junming upon his sixtieth birthday. Created in 1661, the eighteenth year of the Shunzhi reign (1644-1661), when the painter was about seventy years old, it highlights lofty mountains and pine trees, both of which carry auspicious meanings of longevity in traditional Chinese culture. Wang used the symbolism to express his best wishes for his friend's birthday. The virtuosity Wang demonstrated in shading, texturing and coloration renders the painting handsome and elegant, reminding the viewer of the very spirit and idea of understatement and primitive simplicity in works by Dong Yuan and Huang Gongwang. This landscape is typical of Wang Shimin's late years.

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