Amidst Mountains and Streams" by Chinese Artist Fan Kuan
Fan Kuan (990–1020) was a Chinese landscape
painter of the Song Dynasty. He is considered among the great masters of China's the 10th and 11th centuries. Kuan spent
his life as a recluse in the rugged Qiantang mountains of Shanxi to base his paintings on the Taoist principle of becoming
one with nature. No biographical details survive about Kuan. He was listed as one of 100 most important people of the last millennium by Life magazine.
Travelers Amidst Mountains
and Streams, a large hanging scroll, is Kuan's best known work. It became a model for other Chinese artists as a seminal
painting of the Northern Song school. When looking at the painting, the viewer realizes how small he/she is compared to
the big picture of nature.
Fan's style - reducing human figures to minute proportions and dramatizing the
awesome power of nature - has led critics to compare his creative powers with those of nature itself. The painting's foreground
is executed in crisp, well-defined brush strokes. There is a suitable break between the foreground and the towering central
peak behind, which is treated as if it were a backdrop, suspended and fitted into a slot behind the foreground. There are
human figures in this scene, but they appear to be overpowered by the magnitude and mystery of their surroundings. Cultural