Magic of nature in 11th century landscape

17:25, September 26, 2010      

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"DEEP Valley" is a famous 11th century landscape by court painter Guo Xi (1020-1190) whose mountain snow scene reflects the Taoist view that a good painting should reflect the magic of nature.

The ink-wash work (168cmx53.6cm) in the Shanghai Art Museum depicts heavy snow on mountains and steep cliffs where old trees struggle to survive.

Guo was a representative court artist in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and occupies an important position in Chinese art history. He is noted for his "three distance" theory about high distance, deep distance and level distance, or foreground, middle ground and background, recorded in his treatise titled "The Lofty Ambition of Forests and Streams."

The artist is also famous for his technique of brush strokes and ink wash to depict textures and surface of rocks and cliffs.

In "Deep Valley," the painter emphasizes the depth and height of the mountain by using a high-angle view, in which the painter looks down at the scene. This perspective reflects the Taoist view of mystical nature.

The composition is significant, classically reflecting Guo's three-distance theory. He uses high distance and bright tones to express the upward force of the mountain and deep distance in gloomy tones to show peaks rising one after another.

The ink wash is also distinctive. Light ink is used to paint the mountain covered with snow, which appears fresh in the vivid scene. Heavy ink is used to paint the trees, especially the thin branches. This kind of light and dark contrast is used to create aesthetic visual layers.

The mountain and trees appear to be falling asleep in the cold winter, but the gurgling stream in the foreground gives a sense of life and the coming spring.

(Source: Shanghai Daily)

(Editor:李牧(实习))

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