Fan Kuan - Travellers amid Mountains and Streams

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Travellers amid Mountains and Streams
Fan Kuan (China, ca.990–1020)
ca.1020 a.c.
Ink and color on silk, hanging scroll, 206.3 x 103.3 cm (81,2 x 40,7 inches)
National Museum, Taipei (Taiwan)

During the artistically vibrant Song Dynasty three exceptional artists became known as the "three great rival artists". The first of them is the aforementioned Li Cheng (see previous work). Contemporary of Cheng is Guan Tong, who developed the “Fu Pi Cun” to represent the angular and rocky mountains from Northern China. The younger of the three was Fan Kuan. Very little is known about the life of the latter, and few of his works have come to our days, but one of them, "Travellers amid Mountains and Streams", is truly exceptional.

The composition is dominated by an imposing mountain, a rocky mass that occupies almost two thirds of the scene. Besides its impressive presence, the mountain is remarkable for the simplicity with which it is painted: only the waterfall breaks the uniformity of the surface of the rock. In contrast, the lower third of the composition is rich in details: from the temple that appears just below the waterfall to the barely visible human figure -which the National Museum of Taipei identified as a self-portrait of the artist- in the lower right corner, accompanied by a mule train.

"Travellers amid Mountains and Streams" does not represent a specific place of China. It is an idealized landscape, a testament to the magnificence of nature and the insignificance of man when compared to it.

G. Fernández -

Detail of the temple

"Travellers amid Mountains and Streams" - detail

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