CLP CLP 35 : 1999 "The Case Against The Riverbank: An Indictment in Fourteen Counts." Symposium, Met. Museum, NYC

The Case Against The Riverbank:

An Indictment in Fourteen Counts (version for delivery at Met symposium, Dec. 11 '99)

I want to express my thanks to Wen Fong, Mike Hearn, Judith Smith, and others at the Met. for inviting me to present my views at this gathering. I'm grateful to them especially for their unfailingly friendly and helpful responses to all my requests and problems throughout the long period that led up to this symposium and the publication of my paper. As for Judith, I can only say that if all academic writers had a Judith Smith to work with, the readability level of scholarly writing would be markedly improved.

It feels odd to be standing here delivering a paper for which the audience response has already been determined and published. In a piece that appeared two years ago one of my colleagues wrote: "The Metropolitan museum is planning an international gathering of scholars to examine their promised gift in yet another public forum, and no doubt Cahill will once again present his view. By then, whatever its original shock value may once have been, it will have come now to resemble a miserable, tattered banner, run up the flagpole once again, to be shot full of more holes and ripped apart until, flapping madly and uselessly, it slowly disappears before our eyes." Whether in the event it will be my 'miserable, tattered banner'

(S --) or another, larger and darker piece of tattered cloth, with a picture on it, that will be shot full of holes, flap madly, and disappear before our eyes, is for you to decide. Naturally enough, I hope for the latter outcome. It's not that I want Riverbank to disappear altogether; but I do want it to disappear from our considerations of early Chinese landscape painting, where it has no place.

(S --.) Riverbank. A number of people have contributed to this paper; some are named in the notes to the published form, others have preferred not to be. I must credit especially Professor Hironobu Kohara with a great deal of help--my paper could almost be considered a collaboration between the two of us. Kohara was, I believe, the first to argue in print against the authenticity of Riverbank. I should add that most specialists in our field, outside a special circle identified with two universities and a museum, are deeply skeptical about Riverbank; I won't list them, and some of them, for whatever reasons, don't want to be named anyway. So Sherman Lee and Kohara and I are only the most conspicuous figures in a much larger corps of non-believers.

The form of my paper was more or less dictated by its subject and aim. The arguments that can be brought against the authenticity of Riverbank are too numerous and diverse to fall easily into a continuous scholarly discourse, and I haven't attempted that, but have organized it instead as a series of counts, or charges. Since the paper has already been published in the symposium volume, I'll use my time this morning mostly for those counts that need slides, assuming that people seriously interested in this controversy will read my paper, along with the others, and withhold final judgement until they have both heard us and read us. I'll only summarize the other, unillustrated sections briefly at the end.

Underlying what follows are three large beliefs. The first is that Riverbank, although attributed to the great 10th century landscapist Dong Yuan, is a forgery made by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983.) I say this in full awareness that it's the most contentious point, and that the thrust of much of the writing that has appeared in defense of the work is to "prove" that Zhang could not possibly have done it, for reasons of style, quality, or physical condition. (You will find, for instance, throughout the published symposium volume statements by supporters of the painting that it cannot possibly be modern or by Zhang, as if saying it often enough and in unison could make it true.) The second assumption is that even the highly versatile Zhang couldn't altogether avoid incorporating traits of his own style into his forgeries, and that his style can be recognized and distinguished from tenth century landscape style. The third is that Zhang, skillful and clever as he was, made mistakes that can be caught, and that together rule out an early origin for the painting.

To the argument that we don't have enough safely datable tenth century paintings to exclude any new contender for that period, I would reply that we do have, and we can. Another evasive tactic is to say: But the painting doesn't look like Zhang Daqian's forgeries, or like a modern painting. Zhang would have been happy to hear this, since it's exactly the response he hoped and worked for. Indeed, one of Zhang's forgeries doesn't look like another, and all of them do their best not to look like modern paintings. The works I'll show in comparisons with Riverbank will mostly not look like it either, in any simple sense. But some of them, made by Zhang Daqian both under his own name and as forgeries, will be shown to have distinctive features in common with Riverbank even when they are otherwise in different styles. Moreover, these distinctive features are not, I believe, to be seen in genuinely early Chinese landscape paintings.

In this connection I think it was clever of the Met to bring the British Museum's so-called "Juran," a generally recognized Zhang Daqian fabrication, and hang it beside Riverbank, in the hope that people will say: These two don't look alike, they can't possibly be by the same painter. If we were to hang the Dutch forger Van Meegeren's "Disciples at Emmaus," the masterwork among his forgeries of Vermeer, done on canvas of Vermeer's period, painstakingly painted over seven months and carefully aged, beside one of his later, quicker, and sloppier productions, the effect would be the same, I think. They wouldn't look alike, but they would in fact be by the same painter-forger.

Some circumstances of that kind must underly the physical differences described in Mike Hearn's paper on the comparative physical analysis of Riverbank and two other Zhang Daqian forgeries: they needn't be more than the differences between a work carefully painted, perhaps on old silk, and skilfully furnished with the attributes of age, vs. others on which less time was spent and less technical expertise lavished in the mounting and aging. The latter was done for Riverbank by the late, remarkable Meguro Sanji of Tokyo, with whom I spent many enlightening hours on many visits to his studio; he could perform near miracles of making a painting take on more or less any appearance you chose, making seals and inscriptions appear or disappear, and so forth. As for the silk: early on in this project I turned to the only scholar I know who has made a careful comparative study over some years of old Chinese painting silks, Robert Mowry, head of the Asian Art section at the Sackler Museum at Harvard. He doesn't want to suggest a dating for the silk of Riverbank until he has studied it out from under glass; he's read Mike Hearn's essay and has some questions about it, but since he's here and can speak for himself if he wants to, I'll quote only this from a letter he wrote in March of last year: "Even if the silk turns out to be 'old,' I don't think the painting is of the same age." And more recently he writes: "I assume that old silk was sometimes available to those who searched for it--" and: "If the silk is old, the date of the painting still has to be determined on the basis of style and connoisseurship." Which is exactly what I'm doing today. Robert van Gulik (Ch. Pictorial Art, 1962, p. 391) expresses the same view, writing that even if the silk or paper is proven old, it doesn't mean that the painting is of the same age, and he adds, on the basis of his intimate knowledge of the Japanese and Chinese mounters studios and art markets: "In a country like China where for centuries antiquity and antiques have been regarded with nearly religious veneration, it is not too difficult to acquire blank sheets of antique paper, and unused rolls of old silk." I myself own a painting by the mid-18th century master Li Shih-cho which, he writes in his inscription, was done on a piece of Song-period xuan paper.

Still another authority writes: "The desired appearance of paper or silk of a given age could be artificially produced. On occasions, it was perhaps even possible for the forger to use a genuine piece of ancient material suitable for his purpose." He provides a cautionary example: in the mid-1950s Zhang Daqian brought to Japan a would-be Dunhuang painting with an 8th century, Tang dated inscription--a painting that is now recognized by everyone, including this writer, to be one of Zhang's forgeries. The painting was subjected to technical analysis by laboratory specialists in Tokyo, and, he reports, "From the physical standpoint, the forgery was almost perfect . . . microscopically and chemically, it was thought that everything looked as one might expect of a handsome specimen of Tang workmanship. There were, in fact, plans afoot to publish the findings, as a standard textbook on technical analysis of a Tang painting." And he comments: "It is clear, therefore, that scientifically ascertained data must be interpreted not only in the framework of the stylistic evidence of the painting, but also according to our special historical insight with regard to the problem in question." These wise words, with which I couldn't agree more, are from the very good 1962 article on "The Problem of Forgeries in Chinese Painting" by my colleague Wen Fong (pp. 98, 106)--the same who, nearly half a century later, writes: ". . . it is important for us to recognize that based on physical as well as stylistic analysis, the painting [that is, Riverbank] cannot be a work of the 20th century nor the creation of the renowned modern forger . . . Zhang Daqian." The two statements aren't absolutely irreconcilable, but they certainly pull in opposite directions. I will invoke the 1962 Wen Fong against the 1999 one and continue to argue that Riverbank not only can be 20th century and by Zhang Daqian, but, as I will show, it is.

Even those who recognize Riverbank as a forgery by Zhang Daqian, and who point to serious representational flaws in it, acknowledge also that it's the masterwork among his forgeries, his "Disciples at Emmaus," and stands very high in his oeuvre as a whole. Although, as I'll show, virtually every element in it can be matched in Zhang's other paintings, whether done under his own name or under the names of the old masters, nowhere else does he combine these particular elements into such an impressive and imposing whole. The right response to it, then, isn't "This is too good to be by Zhang Daqian," but rather "This is an exceptionally fine Zhang Daqian, one of his finest," which will be giving him the credit he deserves.

Count 1. The work cannot be fitted into tenth century Chinese landscape painting as we know it from reliable works of that period.

To convince anyone of this, I would have to present a series of slide lectures on early Ch. LS painting, showing how the reliable works differ from copies, imitations, school works, spurious attributions. I've done that in courses given at Berkeley, Chicago, and Princeton, and hope that most sharp-eyed students who sat through them will respond to Riverbank with appropriate skepticism. But it's obviously impossible to do anything like that here, although at later points I'll introduce some of the stylistic arguments against an early date for the painting.

(-- S.) For now, a single one: the upper part of Riverbank is completely anachronistic, besides being sloppily executed, as if it were unfinished or finished off quickly. In tenth century landscape, mist or fog when present at all is restricted to small areas. Nowhere can one see mountaintops disappearing altogether, or (as in upper right) hovering ambiguously in far distance, unsupported by any indication of how they continue below. Tree groups in this upper area are placed in otherwise empty space so as to indicate continuation upward of the mountain slope. This whole upper area is essentially unreadable, and not because of damage or repainting. Perhaps Zhang meant it to be read as the murkiness of a rainstorm; but it's no less anachronistic for that. (Point out geese. WF: "Wild geese fly into the darkening sky.")

So many features of Riverbank point to later periods that one can properly term it a pastiche. Richard Vinograd wrote about it, from a photo given him in a doctoral connoisseurship exam years ago: "Over the whole painting there hangs an air of suggestive obscurity, along with scattered hints of early styles that allow the viewer to fill in mental images of ill-understood early landscape styles, while failing ultimately to really render the basic qualities that would qualify it as an early landscape. I would suggest that it is a relatively recent pastiche. . ." I'm completely in agreement with that assessment, and Vinograd, after studying the work again recently in the original, doesn't see any reason to change it. Those who adopt a fall-back position--the painting may not really be by Dong Yuan, but at worst dates to the later Song? or Yuan?--face this difficulty: it is not consistently in any period style.

Count 2. The painting has serious, in fact fatal, structural flaws. and is filled with representational inconsistencies.

This is an aspect of the work recognized by many viewers who try to read it in the way one reads genuinely early Chinese landscape paintings, as coherent pictures, and find they cannot. Since Sherman Lee has addressed this issue, I'll be brief about it for now, and will touch on other instances of it later.

The river winding out of distance turns all but imperceptibly into a road with people walking on it. It's all very well to point out that the river and road don't really connect, if one looks very closely, and that there are even two thatched houses situated where they join; the fact remains that they are visually continuous--if they weren't, they wouldn't be read that way by so many people who have spotted this anomaly. A good early artist wouldn't have permitted such visual confusion. But in Zhang Daqian's landscapes, as we'll see, rivers and roads winding out of depth often exhibit this kind of ambiguity.

(-- S.) Zhang also has trouble with tree groups, as here, at the bottom of the painting. (Describe) We will probably be told that these oddities are the result of damage and repainting, or that such trivial lapses are insignificant in the face of what Wen Fong calls "the ancient master's tireless and obsessive search for representational 'truth'." That kind of lofty observation allows one to avoid the specifics and offer grand generalities instead. I would rather, like Sherman Lee, look long and hard and closely at the painting, and take garbled passages like these seriously.

Since this is a fundamental point of disagreement among us specialists, as will be brought out over and over in this symposium, let me take a moment, not really to digress, but to clarify what I mean, and I think Sherman and others mean, in making the objections we do against the painting. For this purpose I'll introduce one non-Riverbank example:

(S,S.) the famous two-legged tripod. This will appear before you again this afternoon, and you'll get a different account of it; I want to give mine, briefly, so that there is no misunderstanding about what we are talking about. The detail at left is from the painting "Examining Antiquities" supposed to be by the Ming master Du Jin (it was in great Met exhibition of 1996 from the Palace Museum); the detail at right is from another version of the right one-third of this composition, now in Yale U. Art Gallery. (Describe.)

Now, one would think that what happened here is sufficiently obvious: the copyist botched this passage (and a number of others in the painting), in a way that totally rules it out as the work of a major Ming master. But have we Chinese painting specialists agreed on this? Far from it. You can't imagine (unless you've read our published correspondence) how many ingenious ways have been devised to avoid accepting this simple truth--which, in my formulation, goes like this: a Chinese painting is among other things a picture, and a good Chinese painting is among other things a good picture. (This remains true, by the way, even when the artist is using some highly individual style or introducing expressive distortions or whatever.) Those who don't want to believe this, or to accept its implications, tell us that because Chinese artists weren't pursuing form-likeness, they didn't care about "getting it right" representationally; or that to argue as I do is to impose western concepts of realism or naturalism onto the Chinese pictures (the dread charge of "orientalism" has even been invoked.) And so forth--an extraordinary array of evasive tactics to avoid admitting the obvious. The copyist and the forger aren't always one and the same, of course, but they have one crucial thing in common: both are driven by primary purposes other than representation or depicting things; and because of this, both are likely to slip into producing imagery that is garbled and unreadable, and thus to give themselves away. What Sherman Lee and I and others find unacceptable in Riverbank as an early painting isn't just that it fails to fit this or that criterion of style, but that it's full of representational mistakes, two-legged tripods. And no amount of tricky arguing can change the evidence of our eyes and make these go away.

Now, back to Riverbank.

Count 3. Riverbank agrees in characteristic features with Zhang Daqian's signed works, especially those from the late 1940s.

(S,S.) In the late 1940s Zhang Daqian was experimenting with a compositional type featuring a towering bluff at one side and a long recession to a high horizon on the other. In this 1948 work, the recession is marked with numerous winding and zigzagging streaks or shapes of white, which can be read as roads, rivers, or the flat tops of hillocks and plateaus. Sometimes it is clear which is which, but often it is not.

(-- S.) A landscape from 1949 follows the same general scheme; but now a concavity has been opened in the tall bluff, and a waterfall set in it. Two buildings mark the place where the river ends. The earth masses exhibit more of directional thrust, and a row of mixed trees, including two crossed pines, stretches across the foreground.

(--S.) Another work from 1949, for which Zhang claims in his inscription a Dong Yuan model, titled Immortals' Dwellings at Huayang. The waterfall is here set in a dark cleft, and pours over a three-stepped base before spreading into the foreground, where the water surface is covered with a fish-net pattern, and a house with figures is built over it. All this agrees with Riverbank, as does the tree with bunched leaves and an elongated trunk that curves strangely in its lower part. (Other trees) At left, a building marks the juncture of river and road--not confusable here, since the river is broad and the road narrow. Fu Shen writes about this painting that Zhang "believed that in this work he became the equal of Dong Yuan." A reasonable next step, one might surmise, was to paint a Dong Yuan, using this basic compositional scheme and incorporating many of the features we can observe in these 1948-49 works.

(--S.) In spite of Zhang's claim of a Dong Yuan model, however, this compositional type has no true precedent among extant early paintings. The closest to it is this landscape of Ming date in the Palace Museum, Taipei, ascribed to Dong Yuan and titled Summer Mountains Before Rain. It may well have inspired Zhang Daqian, but it can't serve as an early and supportive parallel for the composition of Riverbank.

Count 4. Riverbank matches Zhang's other forgeries in prominent features that are unparalleled in reliably early paintings.

(--S.) An inscription in the manner of Emperor Huizong on this one proclaims it to be Dong Yuan's Myriad Trees and Strange Peaks. The picture is obviously by Zhang, who did another version under his own name; it may be from the period of the late 1940s we have just considered, and features the same winding streaks of white, meant to be read as paths and streams.

(S,S.) More interesting is this "Juran" forgery (at left), once owned by the Hong Kong collector Chen Rentao (J. D. Chen), who published it in 1955; the painting must be a few years older than that. It's apparently based on a Ming work (at right) in the Juran manner (although attributed to Dong Yuan) in the old collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. Zhang's copy is furnished with the usual set of spurious "old" seals, including the ssu-yin half-seal, which appears also on Riverbank. The copy differs from its model in two notable ways: the blurry brushwork (a feature of Zhang's style to be discussed later), and the top of the hill, which has no distinct crest but simply disappears into the dark silk. Why Zhang allowed this to happen is a question; but we see it also in Riverbank, and nowhere in early Chinese painting.

(S,S) A clue to understanding this curious feature of Zhang's forgeries may be recognized in another of his signed works from the late 1940s, the Mountain Temple and Drifting Clouds, painted in 1947. Here he employs a compositional device favored (and probably invented) by Dong Qichang (1555-1636) as seen in the work by him at left: setting up dynamic energies in the construction of an ascending mountainside, with heavily-modeled masses pushing this way and that, thrust answered by counterthrust, and then containing them--barely--with a simple, flattening contour line at the top. Deleting even this inconclusive ending, an easy move, leaves the mountaintop unbounded, as in the J. D. Chen painting and Riverbank.

(S--.) (Riverbank) The dynamic build-up of the mountainside in Mountain Temple is strikingly similar to that in Riverbank, featuring the same slanting and serrated flat plateaus, the same rows of the same trees diminishing upward in size and clarity. As we will see, these forms appear conspicuously also in others of Zhang's "early" forgeries. One may even feel that Zhang has here given himself away by using so blatantly the materials of his "early" forgeries in a picture done under his own name--materials that are not (let me emphasize the point once more) to be seen in truly early landscape paintings. In his inscriptions on this and the Immortals Dwellings of 1949, Zhang writes of mastering the Dong Yuan style by "consulting" works by Dong in his own collection. What he had really mastered in the course of producing this impressive group of paintings is a system of forms and compositional devices that would serve as a repertory for his forgeries of tenth-century landscapes.

(S,S. Details.) I think of this as my "killer comparison"--anyone who isn't persuaded by it isn't, I think, open to persuasion. (Point out.) And if someone tries to tell you that the resemblance is simply a matter of Zhang learning from Riverbank, don't believe it--that's not the way it works. Wen Fong writes in his paper, hopefully (in the old sense), "When Cahill compares Riverbank with works by .. Zhang Daqian, he points only to superficial form elements and motifs and compositional patterns." But that won't wash; it's another instance of avoiding close looking by keeping one's observations on a high plane of generality. What I'm showing isn't superficial at all, it's the very substance of the painting. Such a distinctive set of forms and way of combining them is just what makes up a style, identifies an artist-- more tellingly, I think, than the much-vaunted brushwork. Zhang could imitate the brushwork of Bada Shanren, or Shitao, skillfully enough to deceive "some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time"--although there are those who will claim they can always tell the difference. (Don't believe them.) But Zhang couldn't avoid giving himself away in passages such as this.

(S,S.) A spurious "Juran" handscroll titled "A Myriad Ravines" that was sold at auction in 1987 is another of Zhang's pastiches, filled with antique-looking inventions that again fail to pull together into a coherent picture. Among the imagery that should be familiar is the river winding out of an ambiguous distance, widening and narrowing as if arbitrarily,

(S --, det. of right) the zig-zagging, flat-topped bluffs, here elongated into bizarre forms; the profusion and diversity of trees; the soft, blurry dotting

(S --, det. of left) and, near the end, the steep slope with rows of trees that swoops dramatically upward--and disappears. The scroll could have been a kind of warming-up exercise for Riverbank, Zhang's masterwork in the genre, where these motifs are handled with considerably more finesse.

(S,S.) A hanging scroll in the same style, also ascribed to Juran and purporting to be from the collection of Emperor Huizong (with the appropriate seals and title) must have been done by Zhang around the same time--we should eventually be able to work out a chronology for his forgeries of particular masters. It bears an authenticating inscription by the collector-connoisseur Wu Hufan, who saw it in 1951. (I cite in my paper a number of cases in which well-known connoisseurs wrote "authenticating" inscriptions on Zhang's fakes, out of friendship or whatever motivation.) The scenery it presents, like that of the handscroll, is highly mannered and unnatural; one aspect of Riverbank's superiority is that in it, Zhang avoided such mannered patterning.

(S,S.) A handscroll once attributed to the early Song master Yan Wengui, sold at auction last March, is another work that has many features in common with Riverbank: the profusion of windblown trees of diverse types scattered throughout the composition, the fishnet pattern on the water, the zigzag mesa, the mysterious lighting--not to speak of the familiar array of impressive "old" seals.

Count 5. Brushwork, or lack of it.

Some supporters of Riverbank contend that its brushwork confirms its authenticity. This is an odd contention in view of the fact that in most of the areas of Riverbank that represent earth or rock surfaces there is in a sense no brushwork--no traces, that is, of the brush having been put down and moved so as to leave distinct brushstrokes. The ink is rubbed onto the silk smoothly in these areas, without separate, visible strokes.

(S,S.) In this, of course, it differs fundamentally from the systems of brushwork commonly seen in early Chinese landscape, in which the brushstrokes, even when they seem strange and sloppy (as in the work in the Kurokawa collection ascribed to Dong Yuan, detail at left) or overlap and interweave (as in the Beijing Palace Museum Xiao-Xiang handscroll, detail at right), still read as distinct strokes. Needless to say, these two paintings, along with others attributed to the artist, are themselves problematic both in their dating and in their relationship to Dong Yuan, so that for Riverbank not to look like them is certainly not a count against it.

(S,S.) The argument has been made that the brush technique seen in Riverbank represents a stage in the history of Chinese landscape painting before cunfa or texture-stroke systems were developed, and that Riverbank agrees in this respect with two generally accepted tenth-century paintings, the anonymous Daoist Retreat in the Mountains found in a Liao tomb at Yemaotai, and the Lofty Scholar by Wei Xian (active 960-73). But a study of details betrays important differences. In the Liao tomb painting the earth masses are powerfully sculpted by brushstrokes that have the double function of shading, as they are applied densely or thinly to render shadow and light, and texturing, imparting tactility and earthiness. Moreover, while they are not everywhere distinct, they tend to linearity, as if made by a dragged brush, and direct the movement of the viewer's eye over the curving surfaces, thereby enhancing the three-dimensionality of the forms.

(-- S, another detail) The result is a landscape in which spaces are strongly hollowed out, enclosed by convincingly-rendered concavities in these earth masses. We can see a similar effect achieved in the well-known Shôsôin biwa (lute) landscape.

(S,S.) The same is true in the Wei Hsien Noble Scholar, in which the ink is brushed onto the earth masses so as to render light and shadow and tactility but also direction--here, mostly upward, for an effect of height. Again, the earth forms are sculpted in a readable way--I have sometimes said about such earth masses in early paintings, to describe their plastic readability, that the visual information provided would suffice for re-creating them in modeling clay--at least, the sides of them facing the viewer.

(S,S.) Compare now Riverbank, where the almost strokeless rubbing of ink onto the silk produces an undifferentiated texturing and a light-and-shadow modeling so inconsistent as to make both the forms themselves and their interrelationships in some places unreadable. This is not a deliberate and expressive manipulation of geological forms and their lighting, as in Guo Xi's Early Spring; it is the outcome of a lack of full control, and results in an effect of arbitrariness. Often we cannot be sure whether one form is in front of another or behind it. If we try to read, for example, the middleground conglomerate of earth masses and, presumably, rocks, we are frustrated everywhere. (Point out.) This is what Sherman Lee calls "total confusion."

(S --.) We find a comparable blurriness, not in any early painting, but in the British Museum's "Juran," now recognized as a Zhang Daqian forgery. It is in a different style from Riverbank, but the application of ink is similar, with large and small brushstrokes merging with rubbed-on ink into an atmospheric obscurity. A representational problem caused by this technique is that forms, unless clearly bounded, tend to merge confusingly with surrounding areas--as here, where the trees merge with the hillside behind.

(-- S.) Seeing this, we understand why we cannot make out the top of the thrusting bluff that terminates so indecisively the middle-ground landmass of Riverbank--it is not set off visually from the equally confused area meant to appear behind it. That is why, in fact, there are so many places in this part of the painting where we are not even sure what we are supposed to be looking at.

(S--.) Richard Barnhart has likened the rendering of earth forms without contours in Riverbank to their rendering in Zhao Gan's handscroll Early Snow on the River. This strikes me as an unfortunate comparison, since Riverbank comes off so badly in this respect against the Zhao Gan work, in which the forms are consistently distinct, never blurring or fusing ambiguously as do those in Riverbank.

Count 6. Compositional method, animated landforms.

(S--.) While one can, of course, find landforms that function dynamically in early Chinese landscape compositions, there are none quite like those in Riverbank, or composed in such a way, lunging diagonally and countered by masses lunging in the opposite direction. The artist, I submit, was very familiar with this compositional method as it had been developed by Dong Qichang and his followers, and used it, perhaps unconsciously, in this inappropriate context.

(--S.) Juxtaposing Riverbank with a landscape painting by Dong Qichang, we can observe that in certain respects the two works have more in common than either has with any genuine early landscape. Besides the domination of the composition by pointed, volumetrically-rendered earth masses that engage in vigorous diagonal thrusts and counter-thrusts, we can note the placing of small, blocky masses at the feet of slopes, and the line-up of trees of strikingly varied types in lower left. (For these, one is supposed to think of the Kurokawa "Dong Yuan" as a parallel, but the passages are quite dissimilar.)

(-- S.) (Wang Hui doing an imitation "Xu Daoning.") The heavy shadowing in the ravines and crevices that separates these masses enhances the dramatic effect, just as it does in Riverbank. Again, nothing of the kind can be found in early landscape--the lighting in Guo Xi 's Early Spring, for instance, is very different. Zhang Daqian couldn't resist dramatizing, making his "early" pictures more visually exciting than they properly should be. And Riverbank is indeed exciting in this way. It's as if a Cézanne landscape were dropped in among a group of Claude Lorrains--it would stand out as far more stimulating, for 20th cent. viewers, than its companions.

(-- S.) The over-strenuous, muscular forms in Riverbank must be distinguished from the diagonally-pushing rock and earth masses seen in some early landscapes, such as the rocky background of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Sakyamuni Preaching a Sermon on the Vulture Peak (Hokke Mandara), perhaps ninth century in date. The dynamic forms here are limited to a particular area of the composition, and are not expanded to become an organizing principle for the whole.

(-- S.) Zhang Daqian's fondness for over-animated compositions based on diagonally-disposed masses is seen in others of his forgeries, such as the composition attributed variously to Guan Tong and Liu Daoshi--here a detail from the latter.

(-- S) To bring us back to the quieter world of truly early Chinese landscape, here is a Song-period work in the Juran manner, the so-called Xiaoyi Searching for the Lanting Sutra. We can argue about the date--I myself have put it as late as Southern Song. But the landscape forms, while they belong distinctively to the Juran manner, are stable and earthy; the trees diminish convincingly and do not attempt to exhaust the entire repertory of tree-types; the whole composition is undramatic, clearly readable, and, exactly because it does not lay claim to being the Mona Lisa of Chinese painting, deeply satisfying.

Count 7. The lighting in Riverbank is too dramatic and sophisticated.

Here again, the artist reveals his own time, unintentionally. This is another aspect of the work that strikes many first-time viewers immediately, and another that makes it so visually stimulating. It is achieved through pronounced light-and-dark contrasts on the forms (often with too-sudden transitions), but also by creating areas of unexplained luminosity in the picture. The lighting is not naturalistic, that is, but more an unnatural glow, as though the forms themselves were radiating light.

(S,S) It is what distinguishes the British Museum "Juran" (at right) strikingly from the Shanghai Museum picture (at left) that is its model, an old work in traditional style, however one may date it.

(S,S.) One sees it in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts "Guan Tong"--the cliffs flanking a dark ravine will be suddenly and strangely sunlit.

(S,S.) Or in the "Yan Wengui" "Wind on the River" scroll, former Juncunc Collection, right. The effect is striking also in Zhang's figure painting forgeries, such as this "Anonymous Tang" picture (left) of Laozi passing the barrier in his oxcart. In all these paintings Zhang was playing to a belief, which is not without basis, that early Chinese artists sometimes used illusionistic lighting effects of a kind that all but disappear after the early Song.

Count 8. The family scene; the abundance of figures.

(S --.) (detail from Riverbank) According to Kohara's observation, which is consistent with my own, nowhere in Song or earlier landscape painting--independent landscape, that is, as distinct from narrative or some other pictorial type for which landscape is setting--can one find a scene like this one, in which the "lofty scholar" is accompanied by his wife and two children. Moreover, this group is only part of a rich quasi-narrative complex involving some nine other figures. Shih Shou-ch'ien is right, in his paper, in saying that we have always associated compositions of this type with the Yuan dynasty, and especially with Wang Meng. But when he argues that Riverbank now allows us to see the type as originating in the tenth century, and then uses this newly-created category of early landscape to provide a comfortable place for Riverbank in that period, we have a classical case of the circular argument. I say this as one who has always admired Shih Shou-ch'ien's scholarship and writing as consistently intelligent and original.

(-- S.) The problem is that while figure groups of this kind have a place in such genre works as Zhao Gan's Early Snow on the River handscroll, a pictorial disquisition on the lives of fishermen for which the landscape serves as environment, they do not, judging from extant examples, belong in monumental landscape paintings, in which the landscape is itself the central subject and the figures are smaller and more conventional.

The Wei Xian Lofty Scholar doesn't provide a good parallel either, for reasons given in my paper.

(S,S.) Zhang Daqian, on the other hand, likes to spot his landscapes with narrative-like figure groupings, in pictures that have no specific subjects. In the "Liu Daoshi" work, the scholar reclines, his book beside him, while a traveler crosses a bridge behind, a boy draws water below, and another scholar and his servant emerge from a ravine at right, and above is a farewell scene outside a retired scholar's house. (In my published paper I cite several others of Zhang's forgeries that are similarly overpopulated.)

Zhang Daqian apparently lacked the restraint that prevented early landscapists from livening up their pictures with profusions of active, attention-drawing figures.

(S,S. Dark slides.) The remaining six counts, which are not so dependent on visual materials, I will summarize briefly.

Count 9. The signature.

Suffice it to say that it is highly suspect, and even some who think the painting early believe the signature was added by Zhang Daqian. The problems raised by it are discussed in my printed paper.

Count 10. The seals appear not to match those on more acceptable works.

Even the supporters of Riverbank have backed away from earlier claims, in several published writings, that the seals can support the early date and importance of the painting. The would-be early seals follow the pattern commonly seen on Zhang Daqian's forgeries of old paintings.

Count 11. There is no secure, identifiable reference to Riverbank in any old catalog or other text.

This one is self-explanatory. The painting's supporters attempt to identify it with a work by Dong Yuan of that title in Zhou Mi's 13th century Yunyan guoyan lu. But it cannot be the same painting. Ankeny Weitz, whose doctoral dissertation is a study of that book, uses Riverbank as an example of what she calls modern "misuses" of the book by collectors eager to match paintings they own with those recorded in it, and points out that the Riverbank mentioned there was a short handscroll, not a large hanging scroll. Enough said on that count.

Count 12. There is no painting from the Yuan period or later that really appears to be based on Riverbank.

It is sufficient here to comment that none of the works cited in Wen Fong's two papers as compositionally similar strike my eye as clearly related to Riverbank at all. With enough time I would demonstrate this by comparisons; but you can do it for yourselves.

Count 13. The "too good to be true" phenomenon.

When the "paper trail" of signature, seals, and purported correspondence to records in old books is as full and distinguished as it is here, and the work comes from the hands of Zhang Daqian without any clearly traceable earlier history, it is reason enough for deep suspicion, since Zhang's other forgeries reveal how adept and painstaking he was in laying these trails. For this, too, please read my discussion in the printed paper.

Count 14. An Alternative Recent History for Riverbank

The now-famous letter from Xu Beihong and the set of circumstances and "evidence" associated with that story have been generally held to support Riverbank, or at least to eliminate the likelihood that it was painted by Zhang Daqian, by proving that it was in existence in 1938, before Zhang began his career as a forger of pre-Song paintings. It has been a major support for believers in the painting. But when one looks more closely into the letter along with other so-called evidence, it proves to be full of anomalies and contradictions, and is itself clearly a concoction, like the painting. Most everything that was claimed for this letter has been overturned in recent investigations by several people--the recipient, the dating, the present owner, the interpretation of its contents; and supporters of the painting have been revising their stories accordingly. Kohara argues in his paper that the letter is itself a forgery by Zhang Daqian. My assumption has been that Xu Beihong wrote it, but at Zhang's request, to oblige him and support his fabrication. Whichever is the truth, and more research may clear up the question, the letter has become more an embarrassment than a support for believers in Riverbank, since a genuinely early painting with a real provenance would not have needed such an obviously fabricated one. Moreover, the nature and extent of Zhang Daqian's involvement in the fabrication tends to confirm his authorship of the work, along with all the other indications. Here I particularly entreat all those seriously interested in the Riverbank controversy to read this last section of my paper.

I originally had a fifteenth count, which by editorial decision was turned into an afterword, calling attention to the cumulative weight of all the foregoing. None of these counts, in my view, can legitimately be brought against any genuinely early Chinese landscape painting, whereas all of them can be brought against Riverbank. The conclusion to be drawn seems inescapable. The only question that remains, I think, is how long it will be before Riverbank joins the Etruscan horses and other recognized forgeries of early art works in the Met's basement, where we can all visit it from time to time to admire it as the handiwork of the brilliant Zhang Daqian--to whose memory, finally, (a real memory--I knew him well) I dedicate this paper. Thank you

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