Couplet in running script

Artist: Lu Yanshao (China, 1909-1993)
Historical period(s)
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
H x W (image, each): 135 x 32.4 cm (53 1/8 x 12 3/4 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, running 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 more than ten years ago in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950 vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (see Curatorial Note 3, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


As shadows fall through the sparse pines, the empty altar is still,
Spring is fragrant in the slender grass, the little cave lies hidden.

Lu Yanshao is widely recognized as one of the most important and original landscape painters of the later twentieth century, but although he was a dedicated practitioner throughout his life, his calligraphy is far less well-known, being seldom exhibited and rarely published. As a calligrapher, Lu worked in a wide range of styles and formats over his long career, most importantly the standard script found on stone inscriptions of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-535), but always returned to the model-letters tradition of his early training, as seen in this fine example of his running script. Characterized by a sense of fluid spontaneity, Lu Yanshao's writing is confidently executed and supremely cultivated. He often selected his subject matter from earlier Chinese literature, such as the two lines of this couplet, which are quoted from a poem by the Tang dynasty poet Han Hong (active 750s-780s), titled Inscribed on the Temple of the Wandering Immortal.

Lu Yanshao was born in Jiading, Jiangsu Province, where his father ran a rice shop. In 1922 he moved to the nearby city of Shanghai and began to study painting, calligraphy, and seal carving. When the War of Resistance against Japan broke out in 1937, Lu made his way to the wartime capital in Chongqing, Sichuan Province, where he continued to paint and exhibit his works. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Lu moved to Shanghai, where he became a teacher, but in 1958 he was denounced during the "anti-rightist" campaign and lived under a cloud for twenty years until being fully rehabilitated in 1978. The following year, Lu Yanshao was made a professor at the Zhejiang Institute of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, and resumed openly teaching and painting until his death.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 363, 260.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 16, pp. 112-13, 136.
  • 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, Contemporary Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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