33) Ch'ien Hsiian. Wang Hsi-chih Watching Geese. Handscroll; ink and colors on paper. Early Yfian dynasty, about 1295. Ch'ien Hsiian, in his move away from Academy style, sought alternatives in both archaism and innovation. He revived old styles, and he tried to create new ones. This painting is an example of the former, the next (No. 34 below) is an example of the latter. In the final analysis, Chien, like his more famous pupil, Chao Meng-fu (see below Nos. 35-37) combined the two approaches, in essence looking to the past for examples and inspiration to guide their own creativity. In this handscroll, Ch'ien looks back to the "blue and green" lanscape style of the T'ang period (see No. 16 above). His theme is also archaic: Wang Hsi-chih was the inventor of the Chinese cursive style of calligraphy, and, according to legend, took his inspiration directly from nature, stating that the fluidity of a certain curved brush stroke was modeled after the graceful curve of a koose's neck. Wang Hsi-chih is here portrayed as an ideal Sung "leftover" literatus -- detached and cool, yet passionately devoted to aesthetic pursuits. The theme is also a reference to the literati painters' aesthetic principles: nature supplies the forms, but the painter adapts these forms to his own use. Ch' ien' s work turns away totally from Southern Sung realism and returns to the archaic world of T'ang landscape. The composition depicts an unreal, storybook realm. The drawing of the rocks and trees, the primitive (almost childlike) perspective, the heavy application of color, and the flatness of design all make stylistic reference to T'ang painting conventions.

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