Thursday, 7 April 2016

Gazing into the Past: Wang Meng (Yuan Dynasty) and his Qingbian Mountains

I'm going to begin this new series with a great and famous work by one of the leading masters of the late Yuan dynasty, Wang Meng: his Dwelling in the Qingbian Mts., which he painted in 1366. This, generally recognized as his masterpiece and as one of the monuments of later Chinese painting, is now in the Shanghai Museum, and has been written about many times. The major writing on it in English, apart from my own several treatments of it in my books, is a dissertation and a published article by Richard Vinograd, which will be in the readings appended to my notes for this lecture. The Qingbian Mts, with all the issues it raises, offers an exemplary and powerful case of how the creation and expression of a painting can be related to the circumstances of the artist's life and to the larger historical circumstances of his time. I will also use it as a beginning comment on the whole nature and direction of later Chinese painting as I've recently come to construct it, citing a recent article of my own, titled "Some Thoughts on the History and Post-History of Chinese Painting" in which I use it, along with two later paintings, to exemplify how some of the finest works of later Chinese painting draw heavily on the art of their past, in a way that goes beyond most of what we saw in painting of the Song period and earlier. ----- James Cahill

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