Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sunset Landscape

I have mentioned the Southern Song landscape painter Ma Yuan here before in connection with a Wallace Stevens poem. I’ve just been reading about the Ma family in Richard M. Barnhart’s chapter of Yale’s Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting. They served Chinese emperors for five generations, starting with Ma Ben (Fen) in the early twelfth century and ending with Ma Lin, who was active in the early to mid thirteenth century. Ma Lin’s ‘touching Sunset Landscape seems almost to be an elegy for his dynasty, so preoccupied is it with the end of light and vision.’ It is a minimal landscape set beneath two lines by Wang Wei, “Mountains hold the autumn colour near / Swallows cross the evening slowly.” Barnhart notes that many scholars have detected a melancholy mood in Ma Lin’s paintings, but, since it was the emperor that commissioned these works, their poignancy cannot solely be attributed to the artist. In Ma Lin, the doomed Song dynasty court ‘found the perfect voice to sing their sad songs for them as they presided over the end of a great empire.’

Ma Lin, Sunset Landscape, 1254


Shan Shui said...

Bada Shanren's sparse landscapes - a lament for the Ming Dynasty's fall?

Plinius said...

Yes, and Bada Shanren's poetry also mourned the loss of the Ming Dynasty.