“This painting was done after Tao Shaoyuan’s copy after the brushwork of Dong and Wang; Huanwen followed him and copied it, which was the extreme of elegance and substantiality, approaching the original. When former sages met with the death of a virtuous man they would hurriedly write a verse on the eternal separation. Now, seeing his surviving work, I cannot stop my tears from falling like rain. During the twelfth lunar month of the year 1933, written by Huayuan, repressing his pain.”
According to the artist’s inscription, he came across a painting by Tao Shaoyuan (1814-65) that in turn had been based on the style of Dong Qichang and one of the Four Wangs of the early Qing period. Tao had already died, and the artist—Wu Zishen—was so moved by the surviving work that he copied it in homage to the earlier master. The brushwork and the forms of the present landscape are indeed close to those of Dong and such followers as Wang Shimin (1592-1680) and Wang Jian (1598-1677) (fig. 1), placing Wu Zishen within a long and glorious tradition.
Fig. 1. Wang Jian: “Landscape,” 1663, after Howard Rogers: Masterworks of the Ming and Qing from the Forbidden City, Lansdale, 1988, cat. 35, p. 69.