Landscapes in the Styles of Old Masters

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Artist: Wang Shimin (1592-1680)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1670
Ink and ink and color on paper
H x W (avg. leaf): 27 x 37.1 cm (10 5/8 x 14 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Handscroll (six album leaves)

China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance research underway.

Famed as both a painter and calligrapher, Wang Shimin was the descendent of a wealthy family that had produced many scholars and officials.  He was a student of Dong Qichang (1555-1636), the preeminent artist and most influential theorist of the late Ming.  Together with his friend Wang Jian, who painted a work exhibited at left, Wang Shimin used his talents and position to promote Dong Qichang's injunction to seek personal expression through the mastery of ancient models chosen mainly from artists of the Song and Yuan dynasties (tenth to fourteenth centuries).  Wang Shimin had many followers and was the oldest of a group later known as the Six Orthodox Masters of the Early Qing.
     At age seventy-eight, Wang Shimin painted six album leaves in the styles of various early masters for his friend and fellow artist Yan Hang (1617 - 1678), labeling each leaf with the name of the artist he was imitating.  The six leaves, three of which are displayed above, were later remounted in handscroll format.  Taken together, these leaves illustrate some of the approved variations in landscape style favored by Qing orthodoxy and exemplify its restrained conservatism in composition and brushwork.
     The center leaf is painted in the style of Juran (active ca. 960-980), the earliest of the masters Wang imitated here, whose influence can be seen on the mountainsides in the characteristic use of "hemp-fiber" strokes -- long, soft, ropelike lines that overlie each other and seem to intertwine.
     The leaf at right is in the style of the Yuan dynasty artist Huang Gongwang (1269-1354), a great favorite of the Qing orthodox movement.  Hunag Gongwang, in turn, had also modeled himself on Juran and Juran's teacher Dong Yuan (died 962).
     The colorful leaf at left is done in the style of Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), a highly influential Yuan dynasty artist and official who derived his landscape style from Dong Yuan and Juran.  Zhao also inspired the hanging scroll by Wang Jian diplayed at left.

Published References
  • Ann Elizabeth Barrott Wicks. Wang Shih-min (1592-1680) and the Orthodox Theory of Art: The Six Practitioners. Ann Arbor. pls. 2-4.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. cat. 569.
  • Wang Shimin. Wang Shih-min fang-ku shan-shui ts'e. Shanghai. .
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: pp. 234-35.
  • Hai wai i chen [Chinese Art in Overseas Collections]. Taipei, 1985. vol. 1: no. 149.
  • The Encyclopedia of World Art. 17 vols., New York, 1959-1968. vol. 14, pl. 392.
  • Victoria Contag. Chinese Masters of the 17th Century. Rutland, Vermont. pls. 37, 48.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 55, vol. 1: pp. 163-4.
  • James Cahill. Chinese Painting. Treasures of Asia Geneva and Cleveland. p. 162.
  • Kathleen Yang. Through a Chinese Connoisseur's Eye: Private Notes of C.C. Wang. Beijing. p.339, fig.122.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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