Eye Candy for Today: detail from ink and color scroll by Wang Hui

The Kangxi Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Three: Ji'nan to Mount Tai, (detail), Wang Hui
The Kangxi Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Three: Ji'nan to Mount Tai, (details), Wang Hui

The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Three: Ji’nan to Mount Tai, (detail), Wang Hui; ink and color on silk. In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This is just the beginning image from a hand scroll that is roughly 26 inches high and over 45 feet long (68 x 1394 cm).

Wang Hui was a Chinese pinter active in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Met’s website includes an essay on Wang Hui and his place in the history of Chinese art.

While most traditional Chinese ink painting is done in black and subtle variations of gray (which are often referred to as “colors”), the more conventional meaning of color is evident in some, and this is a beautiful example of the latter.

In the reference to “ink and color”, I believe the paint is water based, similar to watercolor or gouache, but with more binder, alowing it to adhrere to silk.

The page for this work on the Met’s website includes the entire scroll presented as a series of panels (that read right to left). They are all beautiful, and this one is exceptionally so. As in much traditional Chinese landscape painting, the people are dwarfed by the majesty of nature.

I think those of us who are less familiar with this style of painting tend to think the mountains are wildly stylized and exaggerated — and they are — but not to the extent we might assume. A photo of the region of the subject of this image, Mount Tai (images above, bottom), gives an indication of how severe the terrain can be.

 
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