The second floor of the Gu family exhibition features around 20 exquisite works of painting ranging from Song to the Qing dynasties (960-1911) [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
The exhibition is housed on two separate floors; the top floor is dedicated to scroll painting and calligraphy and the lower floor takes a broader approach to the Gu family collection.
Expansive scroll paintings are displayed in a low-lit and spacious environment, with paintings allowed a suitable amount of breathing room. The works range from the Song to the Qing dynasties (960-1911) and feature a panoply of great Chinese painters including Shen Zhou (1427-1509) and Tang Yin (1470-1524).
Among many the notable works is Wang Jian's (1598-1677) Fantasy Land in The Dream (Qing Dynasty). The black and white painting shows a man immersed on an imaginary island. Swirling, mountainous clouds tower above the slight figure sat serenely before a shelter. The viewer holds a charmingly improbable mid-air vantage point and the slight blemishes of color applied to the work's subject and his hut suggest a subtle painter capable of evoking more than simply natural beauty.
In an adjacent room are 10 major works of calligraphy ranging from the Sui to Qing dynasties (AD581-1911) including the illuminating work Thousand Characters in Regular and Cursive by Buddhist monk Zhi Yong, one helping to clarify two distinctive calligraphic styles.
On the ground floor viewers gain a fuller sense of the collections diversity with calligraphic works, fan designs, scrolls, bronzes, and works of furniture on display.
The ground floor takes on a more immersive tone, if the arrangement of second floor paintings wishes to give the impression of being a part of Suzhou Museum's collection, the ground floor tries to set the works in their original context. Visitors have a tangible sense of the immersion of art within the family’s daily life. Doorways are cutout in the shape of Chinese bronze vessels and one room recreates the Gu family study complete with furniture, writing instruments, and valuable trinkets.
Two works that leave an enduring impression are the large bronzes stood on adjacent plinths in the Gu study. One is a Western Zhou (c. 11th century-771 BC) period hand washing vessel adorned with a muscular dragon head for a handle. The other is a ritual bell from the Late Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC).