Xiao Yuncong (1596-1669) and His Landscape Paintings 蕭雲從及其山水繪畫

Szeto, Yuen Kit 司徒元傑
Supervisor: Prof. J.H. Chou

This thesis attempts to make a thorough study of the Anhui landscape painter Xiao Yuncong (1596-1669) in the context of seventeenth century China. Living through the tumultuous time of dynastic transition, Xiao Yuncong relied on his skill in painting for survival. The geographical environment, the patronage of the rising merchant class and Xiao’s own circle of acquaintances provided the setting for his life and art.

The painting career of Xiao Yuncong spanned over a period about forty years, from the 1630s to the 1670s. Although he was receptive to many styles of the past masters, he did not adhere himself to any particular tradition. His paintings show a gradual stylistic evolution and gain greater depth and breadth with age. He ultimately achieved an individual style which is sufficiently unique and can be easily identified. His mature landscape is abstracted into blocky structures with subdued texturing surfaces and depicted in a bold and vigorous brushwork. His handscroll paintings are quite distinguished revealing his proficiency in handling the format. In contrast to other Anhui painters who were always inclined towards depicting an unpeopled and sparse landscape suggestive of a wintry desolation, Xiao excelled in the depiction of human activities, as can be seen in many of his paintings showing that the figures are always his concern.

Xiao Yuncong exerted impact on the local art circle and is credited to have founded the Gushu School. His woodblock prints, the Taiping Shanshui Tuhua found the way into Japan and influenced the style of that genre in Japan. Xiao’s peculiar approach in painting projects its influence on the development of the seventeenth century landscape painting due to its divergence from the dominant trends of his contemporary artists, in particular, the orthodox style of the Four Wangs.