Lan Ying ranks among the top two or three professional landscape painters of the late Ming era. He was born and trained in the Ch’ien-t’ang district of Hang-chou where the Che school had been centered during early and middle Ming (15th-16th century). While a technical mastery was realized early on, he varied somewhat from most professional painters in combining his technical proficiency with an art historical knowledge of past painting styles. Before the fall of Ming in 1644, Lan traveled in Sung-chiang literati circles and was highly respected by leading literati artists like Tung-Ch’i-ch’ang (1555-1636) and Ch’en Chi-ju (1558-1639).
This 1649 depiction of a wintry landscape represents the distinctive style of Lan Ying’s middle and late period. The composition refers generally to the monumental landscape tradition of Northern Sung (960-1127), the larger forms are strongly silhouetted and the surface is one of light and dark contrasts. Lan’s inscription indicates he did this painting in the manner of Wang Wei (699-759), a T’ang dynasty master known for incorporating sharply outlined mountains and bare trees into his winter landscapes. Wang is also associated with the beginnings of the ink landscape tradition. Large seasonal paintings such as this were often hung above altar tables in the reception halls of the aristocracy.