Ni Zan and his associates

Jin Li
Ni Zan (1301-1374) has been regarded as the paragon of Chinese scholar-painter since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) by critics and scholars. He was praised as one of the four great masters of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). He was also an accomplished poet. His paintings are characterized by highly generalized simple compositions with minimal use of dry-ink brushstrokes. Stories and legends about his lofty personality and obsession for cleanliness were written by his contemporaries. Most of
more » ... rary studies of Ni Zan tend to follow the conventional Chinese biographical approach, sometimes isolating the artist from his contexts. Ni Zan's internal aspects such as his personality, genius in art are over stressed while the external aspects such as the historical context and his associations with people around him have not received enough attention. This paper attempts to reconstruct a contextual picture, making the connections between some aspects of Ni Zan's art with the historical facts of his time and his social relationships with some important scholars and artists to explain the development of his landscape painting. Ni Zan lived in the Jiangnan region from the mid-Yuan to the beginning of the Ming. Born in one of the wealthiest families in Jiangnan, he engaged his time and energy in studying of art and literature, participating in and hosting literati activities in his earlier half life. During this period his associations with some of the important scholars and painters. For instance, Zhang Yu (1283-1350) and Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) had great impact on him in the formation of his aesthetic taste and in the direction of his style. As the results of natural disasters and political power struggling, there was an out-break of bandits throughout the nation in the early 1350s. Facing financial difficulties and increased taxation, Ni Zan longed for dedicating himself to the arts. He chose to leave his family and estate behind, and began his second period of life as a wandering scholar painte [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0088608 fatcat:iqkhuuh2azamdmhrvhvcxwunju