The Red Cliff, 1813

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Born into an important family in Hangchou, Qian Du was brought up on the literary classics. He was also able to study directly from ancient paintings and calligraphy in his father's study. This painting of a scholar in a boat drifting past a rocky outcropping illustrates one of the most famous Song dynasty poems: Su Shi's (1037-1101) "Meditations on Red Cliff." The artist has included the entire verse in this small scroll; it reads in part:

The great river flowing ever eastward,
Its waves have washed away all the gallants of ancient times. . .
Riotous rocks cleave the clouds;
Roaring billows rend the shores. . .
My hair turning grey in these early years
Life is but a dream
Let us pour a goblet of wine to the river moon

While Qian Du often created complex compositions, his brushwork was typically carefully executed, detailed, and exacting. Although the theme here is literary, the meticulous rendering and use of color would have likely appealed more to the merchant than the scholarly class.

Details
Title
The Red Cliff
Artist Life
1763 - 1844
Role
Artist
Accession Number
95.3.2
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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