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Chinese Painting

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The Chinese landscape Painting

Chinese landscapes are both real and imaginary places. Artists depicted realistic-looking mountains, trees, rocks or streams. Yet, the composition of a scene depended more on ideas than any real place. What kind of ideas were explored through landscape? Common themes included harmony, friendship, loyalty, peace, strength, and spiritual enlightenment.

In a Chinese landscape painting, the human figure strolls under towering peaks or along a misty riverbank. Nature, wild and uncontrolled, dominates the scene. This resonates with the Taoist ideal of cultivating an awareness of the awesome power of the universe and harmonizing with the rhythms of nature.

Beginning with Greek sculpture and followed by religious painting, the human figure dominates Western art. Images that tell stories from mythology or the Bible kept the human figure front and center for centuries. The struggle of man against natural forces, his own weakness or his reverence for God is presented. When a landscape tradition finally appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, it often represented human domination of nature, such as the ownership of land.

The use of color is subtle and spare in Chinese landscape paintings. Landscape artists painted mainly in black ink with the addition of a few pale shades of blue, green, yellow or brown. For Chinese painters, free expression of feelings and ideas mattered more than the subjectˇ¦s realistic depiction within a spatial frame. By contrast, Western painting celebrated a wide range of color. This was necessary to represent the effects of light and shadow on a subject.

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