It is not necessary to limit oneself to one style.
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Regarding [the officials] Gao [Tao] and Kui versus [the hermits] Chao [Fu] and Xu [You], Serving and withdrawing are essentially the same. While heaven’s bounty does indeed exist within the mountains, Each man has to follow his own will. The energy between heaven and earth circulates through the caves and valleys. Laughing to myself [I think], “Why don’t I use this old brush to penetrate them and show people!” Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The exquisite zither suddenly sounds mellow; the turbulent waterfall sounds particularly extraordinary. Whose hands can bring forth [music like] the timely rain? In a lofty studio I chant poetry to myself. This is the method that Zhonggui [Wu Zhen, 1280–1354] left us. I regret my painting is unable to resemble his, but it preserves his concept; it will do. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The sound of waves swirls through the blue sky; as waterfalls brush against the dark green rocks. With a tranquil mind, I always come alone, listening carefully, I never feel satiated. Listening to the ethereal sounds and the heavenly wind cleanses away worldly thoughts. One should know that I, a rustic old man, have left traces of them in my paintings. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pines and peaks contend in fantastic appearance; A house sits on the steep cliff. Just as clouds shift from dark to light, everything keeps changing; Even the rainmaker cannot stop this. Only the Heavenly Citadel and Lotus Peaks [of Mount Huang] have this appearance, which is not something that can be captured by the man-made Six Principles [of painting]. I casually emulate their general likeness. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Among all my “wintery-weather” companions, who will keep me company in my wanderings? Unable to climb up th steep cliffs, an old crane flies down at the height of autumn. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pure and severe, the air suddenly turns harsh; across a thousand cliffs pines appear like shadows through the snow. I clean my inkstone not just to paint, but to reveal the images in my mind. The Song dynasty [960–1279] method of depicting snow has largely been lost to most contemporary [artist]. I’ve tried to imitate it, but don’t know if I’ve caught it nor not. Painted by Dai Benxiao, Woodcutter of Mount Ying’e of Liyang [Anhui] by the ancient Pavilion for Pleasing One’s Mind. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
How can I get the qualities of [the pines, which endure] the snow and frost, to abide in me? Labouring hard at poems to send forth their elegance, I set up high by a slab of rock alone. [The work of] stubborn Ni [Ni Zan, 1306–1374] was overly simple and desolate, so I have changed his methods. It is not necessary to limit oneself to one style. Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693) @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art
All his life Dai pursued a dry, softly textured style, creating evocative images of Daoist reclusion and high-minded self-cultivation. This album, one of the finest examples of Dai’s art, is stylistically datable to his late maturity, circa 1690.
In traditional fashion, the album concludes with a snowscape. Dai’s final words on that leaf makes it clear that the intent of his painting is self-expression as well as representation.