Huang Gongwang, Yuan Dynasty Artist

in art •  last year

Portrait of Huang Gongwang

The image was extracted from a large scroll, "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains". This section of the scroll, which was painted by Huang Gongwang, may be found at the Zhenjiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, China. The work is in the public domain because of its age.

Huang Gongwang painted one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese art, "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains". And yet, many in the West would be puzzled by the way this master chose to spend his days. Born poor, Huang Gongwang's artistic skill was noted early. He was plucked from obscurity by a renown teacher, who trained him. At the time, it was impossible to obtain a job of any worth without passing the notoriously difficult civil service exam. Huang Gongwang passed that test and became a low-level civil servant.

China at the time was suffering under Mongol rule. The Mongols, under Kublai Khan, had swept into the South, destroyed the Song Dynasty and established their own, Yuan Dynasty. It was under the Mongols that Huang Gongwang was imprisoned. When he was eventually released, he was a middle-aged man, in his fifties. The dual calamities of Mongol rule and imprisonment led, ironically, to his great achievement as an artist. Huang Gongwang became a Taoist monk and retired to the mountains, where he spent the rest of his days in solitude and contemplation. It was in this circumstance that he became the oldest of the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty.


"Nine Picks After Snow", by Huang Gongwang, Beijing, China
The work is in the public domain because of its age (1340s)

It is said Huang Gongwang believed an artist should not attempt to paint unless inspired to do so. He picked up his brush only when inspiration struck. It was likely because of this that "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains" took three years to complete. He did not finish it until he was about eighty years old.

Huang Gongwang spent his last years in seclusion. He was buried in the Fuchun Mountains, where he had lived, reflected, and painted. His grave site was not discovered until recently. Finally, in 2010, a tomb was unearthed that many believe is the resting place of Huang Gongwang, the first of the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty.


"Stone Cliff at the Pond of Heaven", by Huang Gongwang, Palace Museum, Beijing, China
The work is in the public domain because of its age (1341)


"Clearing After Sudden Snow", by Huang Gongwang, Palace Museum, Beijing, China
The work is in the public domain because of its age (1340s)

All the images on this post were uploaded from Wikimedia Commons

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