DONG QICHANG (1555-1636)
Landscape and Calligraphy
Handscroll, ink on silk
36.5 x 1034 cm. (14 3/8 x 407 in.)
Painting inscribed and signed, with one seal of the artist
Calligraphy signed, with two seals of the artist
Three collectors’ seals
Frontispiece by Wang Zhideng(1535-1612), with two seals
“Artistry is largely inherent, yet can be acquired to some extent through reading
and travelling. With a clear mind, mounds and gullies are formed, and the cities in
Shangdong and Hubei are built.”
- Essays on Paintings Theories, Dong Qichang
A prominent figure in the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy, Dong Qichang advocated the classification of Chinese paintings into Southern School and Northern School, based on the two different styles and techniques employed in landscape paintings. The Northern School was represented by artists like Li Sixun, Zhao Boju, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui, while the Southern School was represented by masters such as Guan Tong, Dong Yuan, Ju Ruan, Mi Fu and Mi Youren. Elegant, smooth and light, Dong’s calligraphy stems from the characters of the Jin dynasty. His great mastery of the wrist and brush renders calligraphy with rhythm and vigour, which seems clumsy but actually very skillful. Dong’s calligraphy
was highly regarded by Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong, which became the model to be learnt by scholars and officials of the Qing court and hence, had a profound impact on the development of Chinese calligraphy.
Landscape and Calligraphy is based on the poem Ode to Misty River and MountainPeaks in the collection of Wang Dingguo by Su Shi of the Song dynasty and on the painting Misty River and Mountain Peaks by the Song master Wang Shen (aka Wang Jinqin). Su Shi created the poem in 1088 for his friend, Wang Dingguo whose collection of paintings included Misty River and Mountain Peaks by Wang Jinqin. According to the colophon of this work by Dong Qichang, Misty River and Mountain Peaks was in the collection of Wang Shizhen (1526-1590) who lent it to Chen Jiru (1558-1639) for his appreciation. Chen showed the painting to his close friend Dong Qichang who regretted not being able to copy it on time and as a result, his version was not a full copy of the original work.
Dong Qichang asked his friend Wang Zhideng (1535-1612) to furnish a frontispiece for this work. The artist’s friendship with his contemporaries
including Chen Jiru and Wang Zhideng was depicted in another painting by Dong, Exalted Gathering in the Green Woods, now in the Minneapolis Institute of Art,Minnesota, the United States. Compare with another handscroll of Misty River and Mountain Peaks by Dong Qichang, now in the Shanghai Museum of Art, which comprises a larger landscape and a poem by Su Shi in small script. The talent of Dong Qichang is manifested through his versatile treatment of the same subject.