Landscape Paintings

Hsu Tao-ning (970 - 1053)
Visiting Mr. Tai on a Snowy Night

Hanging Scroll, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, 70 x 38 in., (178 x 96.5 cm.)

Chu Griffis Collection #114This painting has a story to tell. In September 1996, I went to an auction at Christies in New York with my colleague, Charles Egan. We both fell in love with this painting. I made a bid and we bought it. It was listed as a sixteenth century painting, unsigned and without seals. I felt good about the price we paid.

When I picked up the painting I saw on the ouside of the scroll was written: "Visiting Tai on a Snowy Night" by Hsu Tao-ning (Northern Sung 960 - 1127). I called Professor Egan. He reminded me of a story from the fourth century in Northern China. I found the original Chinese version of the story in a book in our library called A New Account of the Tales of the World. Here was the story Hsu Tao-ning remembered as he painted:

Wang Tzu-chiu lived in Shan-yin [in Chiangsu province]. One night there was a big snow. He woke up and ordered a drink. Everything was bright outside as he peered through the window. He got up feeling relaxed, picked up a poem by Tso Chiu-ming [warring period, ninth and eighth centuries B.C.] and chanted. Suddenly he thought of his friend, Tai An-tao. Immediately he boarded a small boat and was rowed to Tai's place. It took all night. At the door he stopped, turned around and returned home. When he was asked why, Wang replied that he went because he was in the mood to go. After his pleasure was fulfilled, he came back. Why was it necessary to see Tai?

I turned my attention to finding out more about this artist, Hsu Tao-ning, and about the painting itself. Students of early Sung dynasty landscape painting know him as one of the three best students following Li Cheng. Information about these three is easily available in books on Chinese art history. Hsu was good at portraiture as well as river scenes. Personally, he was unkept, loud, impulsive, and often called outrageous.

In regard to this painting, a sixteenth century attribution seems fairly logical relative to some landscapes and figure painting by artists from the Ming Dynasty (1367 - 1644). With our limited resources we cannot afford to buy eleventh century paintings, nor are they easily available.

Purchased with funds donated by the Faigles, the Ricklins, A. Wang, the Willises and Zimmermans. September 1996.