Album leaf mounted as hanging scroll: ink and color on paper
h 21 x w 20 -3/4 inches
h: Hsin-lo shan-jen
Hua Yen was born in Lin-t'ing, Fuchien province, but moved to Hangchou and then Yangchou, both major painting centers in the
early eighteenth century. He was very active with a group of artists who had been involved in various ways with the late seventeenth-century
painter Tao-chi. By the 1730s, Hua Yen's compositions follow those of that master of the spontaneous and unexpected.
"Hua Yen is a major, very versatile artist of the first half of the eighteenth-century . . . and very famous now. Quite a
lot of his work is around, but this is a very special subject. [When I bought this work] it looked kind of coarse, with a
five-character title, plus the seal of Hua Yen, but no signature. And it was not published. [However] the animals are very
sensitively painted. You can see through the smoke and fire and see the line of red fire going across. [There is] wonderful
use of ink, a highly unconventional painting. In this period, in Yangchou, and in eighteenth-century painting generally, something
gives way in the restrictions on subject matter and suddenly they could do things with sort of ominous or painful overtones.
This has become a favorite painting, partly because it breaks the rules. Over the years, as I have said to many people now,
I have come to value more the odd corners, the dissidents, the unorthodox, I mean people who really break the rules. There
are lots of painters in Yangchou who are eccentric, but [I mean] painters who really break new ground, like this one."