Old Trees, Level Distance (樹色平遠)
Guo Xi (郭熙, ca.1020-1090), Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 35.6 x 104.4 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Guo Xi, the preeminent landscape painter of the late eleventh century, sought to give form to poetic images and emotions and was particularly interested in conveying the nuances of seasons and times of day. Old Trees, Level Distance,a variation on the classic “level-distance” formula of tall foreground trees set against a wide river valley, is probably a late work done for a fellow government official on the eve of his retirement. In the final section of the handscroll, the leafless trees and deepening mist impart a forlorn, autumnal air to a scene in which two elderly figures approach a pavilion, perhaps to join colleagues in bidding farewell to a friend.