“In painting, the simple and understated are prized. Deliberating and striving confuse the entire painting, far distant from simple and understated. During the 10th month of the year 1797 of the Jiaqing reign era, the Master of the Autumn Scene Retreat, Huang Yi, called Xiaosong, wrote this within the Grass Hut with Pine Views.”
The village in the foreground is backed by extensive mountain ranges. The various structures—house, huts, pavilions—are interspersed with different varieties of trees, several fences, and a river or small lake. Nothing is dramatic or especially striking, forcing viewer attention on the individual elements and the brushwork, which does present a pleasing variety of strokes and ink tonality. The whole may be characterized as simple and understated, which are exactly the pictorial values introduced in the artist’s inscription as being those most to be prized in painting.
Huang Yi (1744-1801), was born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the son of the painter Huang Shugu (1701-1751). He became the consummate wenren or literati, proficient in painting and calligraphy and also an antiquarian and collector of bronzes and paintings, owning a major 1711 work by Wang Yuanqi, an influence seen here in the brushwork of the painting. But it was as a seal-carver that Huang Yi made his most lasting mark, being recognized later as one of the Eight Masters of Xiling (Hangzhou) along with Ding Jing (1695-1765), the founder of the Zhe School of seal-carving. Huang’s passion for early calligraphy led him to seek out many ancient stelae and, when serving in Shandong province, to be among the earliest to investigate the famous site of Wu Liangzi.