Forest Chamber Grotto at Ju’ou (Lake Tai) (具區林屋圖)
Wang Meng (王蒙, 1308-1385), Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, 68.7 x 42.5 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
This painting represents scenery around the Forest Chamber Grotto at Lake Tai. The fascinating grotto, layers of twisting landscape forms, dense trees, scattered buildings, and waves fill the surface of the painting, presenting a bold interpretation that goes beyond the appearance of natural scenery. The composition is so dense that it appears almost claustrophobic. However, Wang Meng cleverly manipulated areas of form and void to create a visual passage in the upper right corner. Thus, the view extends into the background and opens the composition to prevent a closed atmosphere. Wang used “ox-tail” texture strokes to delineate the landscape forms and long “hemp-fiber” strokes for the tree trunks. Combined with the dense “moss” dots, the brushwork is notable for its variety and finesse. Layers of ink washes were also added to create a distinction between light and dark. Finally, Wang Meng used touches of ocher and red to provide this painting with an aura of autumn.