Precipitous cliffs rise from a foreground river to culminate in a mountainous recession in the far distance. The bent and twisted trees are void of leaves and reinforce the suggestions of winter given by the white areas of silk which are used to indicate snow. Travellers on the riverside path head for an extensive villa nestled among the trees ahead. The overall mood is quiet, suggesting the stillness of winter and the freezing of all potential movement.
Liu Kuan-tao, tzu Chung-hsien, was born in Shan-chung, the modern Ting-hsien in Hopei province. He excelled in figure painting both secular and religious, creating images in which “the eyebrows and lashes, nose and nostrils, were all capable of movement, truly the brushwork of an immortal.” Liu also painted landscapes in which he followed the style of Kuo Hsi, “and at his best was close to the originals.”
The style of the present painting, especially in the drawing of the trees, is indeed close to paintings by or attributed to the great Northern Sung master, but many of these are likely to be works of the Yuan or early Ming period. A “Snow Landscape” attributed to Liu Kuan-tao also relates to the present painting but that lacks even the seals of the artist and cannot be used to substantiate the authenticity of the present work, which appears to date to the 14th-15th century.