Chinese paintings have got a long history which dates back to the Neolithic period with its painted pottery to the recent innovative paintings reflecting a combination of Chinese and Western painting styles. One major category of Chinese painting that has caught the fancy of Westerners is Chinese landscape paintings.
Chinese landscape painters belong to two distinct schools of painting. Professional and Court painters who used distinguishing line techniques and colors in their paintings belonged to the ‘Northern’ School. ‘Southern’ school on the other hand consisted of amateur and gentle man painters, who adopted the monochromatic, or Pomo or broken ink style. The origin of both the schools can be traced back to the T’ang dynasty when the art of Chinese landscape painting flourished considerably.
The proper understanding of Chinese landscape paintings would be impossible without knowing the history and culture of China because without history we are all adolescent intellectuals
History of Chinese landscape paintin
The art of Chinese landscape painting emerged as an independent genre of painting by the late Tang dynasty that reflected the universal yearning of men to escape the mundane world and to seek refuge in nature.
The art of monumental landscape painting flowered considerably during the Northern Song dynasty. The Song court painters romanticized the natural world and later on metamorphosed the images of nature into symbols of a perfectly ordered state. Under the sway of Mongol Yuan dynasty Chinese landscape painters used painting as mode of self-expression. The Yuan dynasty also witnessed the proliferation of the “mind landscape” which encompassed within itself the style of earlier masters and through calligraphic brushwork, represented the inner spirit of an artist. The Ming dynasty witnessed cultural rejuvenation and restoration with the reestablishment of a native Chinese ruling house. Large landscapes flower-and bird compositions became the hallmarks of the new dynasty to communicate its majestic grandeur and benevolence. The Ming state was conquered by the Manchus, a group of self-nomadic people. They established their own Qing dynasty which lasted for 300 years. The Manchus heartily embraced the Chinese cultural traditions and the court became a leading patron in art.
Characteristics of Chinese landscape paintings-
The features of the Chinese landscape paintings can easily be identified. Some of the distinguishing features of Chinese landscape paintings are as follows-
What is depicted in the paintings differ considerably from ordinary human vision.
Each landscape painting depicts some facet of nature in its wholeness. The paintings are often an expression of the rhythms of this vast universe.
The landscape paintings provide a spiritual journey for the viewer.
Chinese landscape paintings are imbued with several layers of meaning which are often difficult to interpret.
The Chinese landscape paintings have taken new shape in the past hundred years but nevertheless they remain the silent reminder of the spirit of the artists who graced the period reflecting the historical turmoil of the different periods.
In the words of famous Chinese art historian, Michael Sull ‘The drama of Chinese history is reflected in the arts. Not only did the style of painting develop and change in very obvious ways, but the position of the artist in society, his attitude to his art, and the very philosophy of art itself all underwent changes