INTRODUCTION to Chinese Painting

Origin

Chinese painting is closely related to Chinese calligraphy since lines are used in both of them. Not only limited to contour drawing, lines are used to express feelings, thoughts and concepts. For different subjects and purposes, different lines are used. They can be straight or curved, hard or soft, thick or thin, pale or dark and the ink can also be dry or running too. The use of lines and strokes is one of the major characteristics of Chinese painting which make it distinct from other traditions of paintings in the world.

It is not hard to imagine that Chinese painting and Chinese calligraphy share the same origin. In a broader sense, it is not uncommon for a Chinese painting to have the elements of poetry, calligraphy and seal engraving integrated together. In fact, many renowned artist-scholars in ancient China are brilliant poets and calligraphers at the same time, such as the iconic writer Su Tungpo 蘇東坡 (1037–1101). In ancient China, “painting in poetry and poetry in painting” (詩中有畫,畫中有詩) has always been a golden rule for assessing a piece of art work. As for inscriptions and seal impressions, they are always employed to explain what the artists think or feel. They are also the decorative elements that make the paintings more thrilling and attractive.

 

 

       

 

Basic Classification
There are mainly four major categories in Chinese painting:
   
       
  1. Landscape (山水)    
       
 
 

南唐•巨然︰秋山問道圖
Chu-jan, Southern T’ang:
Seeking after the Tao
in Autumn Mountain

       
  2. Figure (人物)    
 
   
 
 

明•陳洪綬︰喬松仙壽圖
Ch’en Hung-shou, Ming:
Immortal Under Pines

       
  3. Bird and Flower (花鳥)    
       
 
 

南宋•李安忠︰竹鳩
Li An-chung, Southern Sung:
Shrike and Bamboo

       
  4. Genre (風俗)    
       
 
 

南宋•李嵩︰ 市擔嬰戲
Li Sung, Southern Sung:
Knick-knick Peddler and Children

       
  Basic Techniques
There are mainly two techniques in Chinese painting, which are:
       
  1. Meticulous (工筆):
It usually refers to "court-style" painting.
The artists always pay meticulous attention to every detail in their works.
   
       
 
 

北宋•易元吉︰猴貓圖
Y糎n-chi, Northern Sung: Monkey and Cats

       
 
 

A Closer Look
Fine details of the cat, including the eyes,
tail, ears are clearly shown.

       
 

2. Freehand (水墨):
It usually refers to “ink and wash painting”.
Only black ink is used but in various concentrations.

   
       
 
 

民國•齊白石︰畫蟹  
Ch’I Pai-shih, Modern Era: Painting of a Crab