“Done in emulation of the surviving ideas of Huanghao Shanqiao (Wang Meng.) Shuming (Wang Meng) and Yuanzhen (Ni Zan) were friends. Shuming’s density avoided the sparseness of Yuanzhen, but when complete, the brush and inkwork of Yuanzhen’s sparse fields and by-ways were extremely dense, while the brush and inkwork of Shuming’s dense fields and by-ways were very sparse. The two masters were still different while yet being the same. But those who haven’t gone to the Yueyang Pavilion, and personally seen Immortal Lu playing his flute, should rein in and stop, cover and (put out) the lamp, for (otherwise) within mistakes there will be mistakes. Painted and inscribed by Qin Bingwen, called Yiting.”
A scholar crossing a foreground bridge provides a focal point for the entire picture as we imagine joining him on his stroll, gazing across the stream to the houses beyond, looking upstream to where a boat appears, and then raising our eyes to the waterfall, village, and towering peaks above. This complex vision is matched by the technique, which features short and curving texture strokes and heavily patterned dottings on the peaks to create visual tension and pictorial richness.
The source of the style is identified by the artist in his inscription as the Yuan master Wang Meng (1308-85), and the correspondence in fact is quite clear. Interestingly, the artist then contrasted this dense style with the spare style of Ni Zan (1301-74), but then continued his discourse to find a great similarity between works by the two 14th-century masters, with sparseness present in Wang Meng’s work and density in Ni Zan’s. This concern with style and with art history marks the artist not just as a painter but as an art historian as well.
Born in Wuxi, near Suzhou on Lake Tai, Qin Bingwen earned a juren degree in 1840 and subsequently held official office as Secretary in the Ministry of Revenue. However, he is best known today as an important collector and connoisseur, his collection of 339 paintings having been catalogued by his grandson, Qin Qian, in the Puhua jiyou of 1929. Most of his own paintings are inscribed as having been done after Yuan masters and such Ming artists as Shen Zhou, but very often his works are closer in style to the early Qing orthodox masters who preceded him, such as Wang Shimin (1592-1680). Qin’s appreciation for the past was continued by his nephew Qlin Zuyong (1825-1884), author of Tungyin Lunhua and Hua Jue as well as editor of Huaxue Xinyin, all very important contributions to painting literature of the 19th century.
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