Early Spring (left: full view; right: detail)
Kuo Hsi (ca. A.D. 1020-1090), Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1279)
Light color and ink on silk. Hanging scroll. 158.3 x 108.1 cm
Kuo Hsi, a native of Honan province, served as an official in the Imperial Painting Academy. He
excelled at landscapes and wintry forests, which were executed in complex formal compositions. Early Spring is here conceived of as mist and forest-filled mountains. The brushwork registers infinite variations of pressure and ink: the silhouettes of the rocks and boulders are delineated with a heavy touch, the fog-washed trees with a light one. The washes work in harmony to express a complete idea of nature's forms under these seasonal conditions - with the treetops disappearing perceptibly into the vapor, their trunks still vigorously etched in darker ink. Such virtuosity, subtlety, and attention to the details of expression have been unmatched by any of Kuo Hsi's followers, and this monument, dated A.D. 1072, stands as the painter's supreme masterpiece.
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