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Gu Yan 顧言
(first half of the 17th century)

“Dwellings of the Immortals” 1618

Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
167.2 x 49.9 cm. (65 7/8 x 19 5/8 in.)

“During the ninth lunar month, autumn of the year 1618, painted after
‘Dwellings of the Immortals,’ by Gu Yan, the Old Farmer.”

Artist’s seals: Gu Yan; Laonong

Published: Kaikodo Journal XXXIII (Spring 2017), no. 13.



A scholar sits on the riverbank attended by a servant who is brewing tea. Cypress trees rise above, their gnarled and twisting branches providing much visual interest. Above and beyond, faceted cliffs compress a rushing river and fill the upper part of the picture with great drama. The proportions of the picture favor height over width, emphasizing the sheer verticality and grandeur of the scene.

Although the artist seems not to have been recorded in standard sources, the forms and approach are similar to those of such late Ming artists as Zhang Hong (1577-1652 or later) and Xiang Shengmo 1597-1658), suggesting a comparable date for the picture to the first half of the 17th century, to 1618 rather than 1678, a cycle of sixty years later.

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