Guo Xi - Song Dynasty

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       Guo Xi (郭熙, ca.1020–1090) was a Chinese landscape painter from Wenxian in Henan Province who lived during the Northern Song Dynasty. He served as a court painter under Emperor Shenzong (reigned 1068-1085). Early in his career as an artist, Guo Xi painted large screens and walls for major palaces and halls in the capital that had caught the attention of the emperor. Guo was later promoted to the highest position of Painter-in-Attendance in the court Hanlin Academy of Painting. He produced many monumental landscape paintings and specialized in painting large pine trees and scenery enveloped in mist and clouds. He employed "curled cloud" texture strokes (卷雲皴) for mountain slopes, while he did trees in "crab claw (蟹爪)" forms to create a style of his own. Being a court professional, he developed an incredibly detailed system of idiomatic brushstrokes which became important for later painters. His most famous work is Early Spring, dated 1072. The work demonstrates his innovative techniques for producing multiple perspectives which he called "the angle of totality." The following is an excerpt from his "Treatise on Mountains and Waters (山水訓)":

       The clouds and the vapors of real landscapes are not the same in the four seasons. In spring they are light and diffused, in summer rich and dense, in autumn scattered and thin, and in winter dark and solitary. When such effects can be seen in pictures, the clouds and vapors have an air of life. The mist around the mountains is not the same in the four seasons. The mountains in spring are light and seductive as if smiling; the mountains in summer have a blue-green color which seems to be spread over them; the mountains in autumn are bright and tidy as if freshly painted; the mountains in winter are sad and tranquil as if sleeping.

Artworks by Guo Xi (view the entire painting gallery)