Wang Meng. Secluded Home in a Wooded Glen. 1361. Ink on paper.
In the middle of a small grove of trees a man can be seen sitting at a writing table in a house. The trees surround the house and their forms lead up to the cliffs of a flat peak of rock that towers over the landscape. The sky behind the mountain peaks is empty. The extreme vertical composition (it is a scroll painting) emphasizes the height of the mountains and the small size of the man's house. The house contains the only straight lines in the picture thus setting it off from the twisting shapes of the pine trees and the jagged lines of the peaks. The painting is not a realistic rendering of a place. The place might exist and resemble the painting, but everything is exaggerated by means of minimizing distractions so that the eye concentrates on the basics of rough peaks, tangled trees and simple house.
Wang Meng did not use a great deal of color in the picture. The paper has an overall brownish tinge to it and the majority of the forms in the picture either feature no color at all or they are in browns that are a little brighter than the background. There is also some dark, dull green in the trees and in plants (resembling small evergreens) growing on the rocky cliffs. Rocks are shadowed and given much of their interior form by means of a dotting effect with black ink. The similarity of coloring throughout the painting creates an atmosphere that holds all the elements together and tends to reduce the impression of distance (which is minimized anyway) between the foreground and the wall of mountains in the background.
The picture breaks up into a foreground area that has chunks of rock on either side of a path. Two large trees end the foreground and frame the house in the center ground. The opening between the trees reveals the house and then the branches of the trees spread out and meet above the house. On the left the rocks come forward, clos...