Liu Chun was a court painter in the early Ming "Academy" during the reign of the Hung-chih emperor (1488-1505). Best known as a Taoist figure painter, he followed the style of Yen Hui (14th century), a figural specialist of the early Yuan period. Landscapes by Liu Chun are relatively rare but the true subject of this large riverside scene is the famous Sung philosopher Chou Tun-i (1017-1073), who is shown staring out the open window of this waterside retreat across a bed of lotus, his concentration broken by the melancholy flute playing of a solitary fisherman.
Much "academic" and Che school painting of the early Ming drew inspiration from the earlier Ma-Hsia landscape tradition of the Southern Sung period (1127-1279). The dramatic foreground rocks, broad brushstrokes, and calligraphic landscape elements shown here recall the earlier style. The large scale of the work suggests that it is a ta-chung-t'ang (great central hall) painting reserved for one of the large public rooms of a palace or aristocratic household. Working for the court would have brought the artist into contact with wealthy patrons who required these larger paintings.