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Chinese Landscape Painting

Chinese Landscape Painting is considered by many the highest form of Chinese painting. Landscape painting in China has been practiced for centuries. It flourished during a period of time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song period (907-1127). It was this time that art critics have declared the "Great age of Chinese landscape". In Northern China, artists such painted pictures of soaring mountains, using strong black lines, ink wash, and sharp, dotted brushstrokes to suggest coarse stone. In the south, artists painted the rolling hills and rivers of their indigenous countryside in peaceful scenes painted with softer, rubbed brushwork. These two kinds of scenes and techniques became the established styles of Chinese landscape painting.

Chinese Landscape Painting

At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, many paintings were shanshui, or mountain water paintings. These landscapes were a style that is collectively called shuimohua. The main characteristics of shuimohua are the monochromatic coloring and the sparse scenery. The purpose was not to exactly reproduce nature perfectly, but rather to grasp the feeling so as to grasp the natural energy of nature. As the Tang dynasty fell apart, landscape paintings became more prominent as men chose to seek an escape from declining human order.

During the Song period in China, landscape painting began to shift from a pure art-form. At the time, writing about the difficulties in life or the strife caused by the current political structure was frowned upon. Men started to use painting as a form of expression. Paintings of natural hierarchy were used as metaphors for the well regulated Chinese political structure and social climate. As people’s reason for painting changed, the art-form began to evolve. Landscapes with subtle expression appeared. Vast distances were conveyed through the use of hazy outlines, mountain contours disappeared into the mist, and impressionistic treatment of natural occurrences.

Notable Chinese landscape painters are Gou Xi, Qu Ding, Ma Yuan, Zhao Mengfu, and Wang Meng. The artists left a major impression on later artists. To this day, nature and harmony with nature is still a focal point for modern artists.

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