|Mountain Dwelling will be featured with works of other master Chinese painters in an exhibit at the Museum in January. Photo courtesy Museum of Art|
Kung lived during a turbulent and chaotic era in Chinese history. Born during the decline of the Ming Dynasty, he witnessed the severe deterioration of the central government brought on by nefarious eunuchs and corrupt officials. In 1644, the Manchus, encouraged by the crumbling state of affairs, invaded and captured Peking and established the Ching dynasty.
Patriotic artists like Kung were filled with a righteous indignation that often was reflected in their art, explains Marshall P.S. Wu, senior curator of Asian art at the Museum. Because of their patriotism and loyalty to the Ming court, later scholars came to designate them as remnant painters.
In 1664 Kung Hsien settled in Nanking, where he built a small house on the slope of Mt. Ching-liang, which means clear and cold hill. Kung felt a strong sense of attachment to his home, as evidenced by the many paintings he completed with Mt. Ching-liang as a setting, Wu says. The Museums new scroll, which includes a small hut perched halfway up a mountain facing a river, depicts this property. Kungs refined use of this motif can be understood as an invitation to the viewer to immerse oneself in nature.
Day after day, I gaze at the mountain and never tire of it. I wonder how many can forget their mundane affairs, exit the city, and enjoy this splendor, reads Kungs inscription.