The Art History Archive - Chinese Art
By Brandi Leigh - 2008.
Huang Gongwang was born in 1269 in the Jiangsu province of China. Huang lost his parents at a very young age and grew up in poverty until Huang Le, a native of the Zhejiang province, adopted him. The 90 year old Le was impressed by the boys talent and renamed him Huang Gongwang. By age 12 Huang took a child prodigy examination and studied to become a master of knowledge and techniques. Huang passed the civil service examination but was forced to leave when he was accused of tax irregularities. It was at this time that he began to serve as a Taoist priest.
Huang studied under Chao Meng-fu and was consequently lumped into a group called the Four Great Masters of the Yiian, with three other students of Chao Meng-fu. The others in the group consisted of Ni Zan, Wu Zhen and Wang Meng, together the group changed the face of Chinese landscape paintings. Huang painted in two styles, one which focused on the use of purple ink, while the other used solely black ink.
Huang rejected the conventional ways that artists painted landscapes, he believed that one should only paint when inspired, which followed the literati way of painting. In the later years of his life he lived in the mountains and devoted the rest of his life to music, poetry, writing and painting. One long scroll by Huang is among Chinese histories most famous paintings, which had and continues to have an influence on Chinese art. Huang left an inscription at the end of this scroll, he notes that after a brief burst of creative energy when he laid out the basic plans of the scroll, he spent the next three years finishing the rest of it. This left the art piece with a very relaxed and spontaneous feel to it, true to his belief that one should only paint when inspired.
Most of Huang’s landscapes were painted after his seventieth birthday. Huang passed away at the age of eighty-six. Today his book – Knack of Landscape Painting - continues to inspire and enlighten. During Huangs life he created almost 100 paintings, however only a few exist today, among them: Marvelous Rivers and Mountains, Living in Seclusion as a Fisherman and A Room Full of Fragrant Orchids.
Artwork by Huang Gongwang
Huang Gongwang - Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains - 1350