Couplet in seal script

Artist: Huang Binhong (1865-1955)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, mid-1940s to early 1950s
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
H x W (image, each): 151.8 × 26.4 cm (59 3/4 × 10 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls (pair)

China, couplet, Modern period (1912 - present), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, seal script

To 1997
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York City, to 1997

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1997 [1]


[1] The total gift from the Ellsworth collection consists of nearly three-hundred objects (F1997.42-.85 and F1998.83-294). All Chinese calligraphy in the proposed gift were published in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950 vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (see Curatorial Note 2, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


Discussing stones, you have the pure reputation of Guo Youdao,
Painting plum blossoms, you humbly esteem Wang Yuanzhang.*

Huang Binhong is widely recognized as one of the foremost landscape painters of the twentieth century. Although less renowned as a calligrapher, he strongly emphasized calligraphy as the foundation of all brushwork and frequently addressed the subject in his writings. Huang Binhong was especially interested in epigraphy and began his study of ancient seal script as early as 1889, an interest he augmented over the years with his own growing collection of bronze seals. Most published examples of Huang's seal script date to the 1940s and 50s. As here, his primary focus was the archaic structure and formation of the characters themselves, rather than the expressive manipulation of brush and ink.

Huang Binhong was born in the town of Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, where his father was a cloth merchant. He received a fine classical education and already showed considerable promise in calligraphy, painting, and seal carving during his childhood. In 1883, Huang moved to Shexian, in Anhui Province, where he resided for most of the following twenty-four years, making many long excursions throughout the Yangtze delta region, where he had the opportunity to examine and copy famous works of painting and calligraphy in private collections. In the 1890s Huang became involved in revolutionary anti-Manchu politics, and in 1907 he was forced to seek refuge in Shanghai, where he remained for most of the next thirty years. In 1937, he moved to Beijing just before Japanese forces occupied the city and remained aloof from most public activities during the war. In 1948 he became a professor at the art college in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and continued to write, teach, and paint until the time of his death.

* Guo Youdao may refer to the Han dynasty scholar, Guo Tai (128-169), who possessed an unusual ability to assess the character of others. Wang Yuanzhang was the Yuan dynasty painter Wang Mian (1287-1359), who specialized in painting branches of blossoming plum flowers.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 210, 337.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 20, pp. 122-25, 138.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 256-261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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