A Myriad Bamboo in Autumn

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Artist: Wang Fu (1362-1416)
Calligrapher: Frontispiece by Lu Shen (1477-1544)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1410
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 26.1 x 847 cm (10 1/4 x 333 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


bamboo, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)
Provenance research underway.

Wang Fu was the most highly accomplished painter of bamboo during the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644). In this ingenious composition, he skillfully combined a close-up view of bamboo seen from ground level with a traditional river painting in the handscroll format. Throughout the painting, about one-third of which is on display, Wang masterfully blended a range of contrasting ink tones-the dark, spiky leaves of the bamboo standing out in silhouette from the lighter background rocks and further shore-to create an engaging visual narrative of a small stream flowing through a bamboo forest. According to records, Wang Fu painted several handscrolls in this style; however, the current painting is the only original example known to survive. In his inscription at the left end of the painting, Wang Fu recorded the circumstances that led to his creation of this work:

"I had been weary of painting for a long time, when one day Master Yu Xingjian brought this scroll to me and asked for an ink painting of the "gentleman" [i.e., bamboo]. At the time, I was a bit tipsy from drinking some wine, and just as I happily started to wield my brush, without noticing it, I had come to the end of the paper.

Although its manner does not fully conform to the rules of the old masters, still it captures a mood of easy country living that comes from my own ideas, so perhaps it is something worth having. Since Master Yu by nature has a very lofty disposition and is an expert connoisseur of the arts, he will certainly ignore its external appearance [and perceive the true inner qualities of the work]."

Published References
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: pp. 204-207.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols., New York and London, 1956-1958. vol. 6: pl. 132.
  • Hou-mei Sung Ishida. Wang Fu and the Formation of the Wu School. 2 vols. Ann Arbor. fig. 37.
  • Nakata Yujiro, Fu Shen. O-bei shuzo Chugoku hosho meiseki shu [Masterpieces of Chinese Calligraphy in American and European Collections]. 6 vols., Tokyo, 1981-1983. vol. 5: pls. 79-88.
  • Kathlyn Lannon Liscomb. Early Ming Painters: Predecessors and Elders of Shen Chou (1427-1509). 2 vols., microfilm. Chicago. p. 528, fig. 45.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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