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Re: Translation of Scroll Painting

Posted By: rat
Posted Date: Feb 24, 2017 (01:24 PM)

Some Chinese painters use smaller "vegetation" dots for a similar integrative purpose. Yuan painter Ni Zan was one of them, as this picture in the Metropolitan shows ( In fact despite the Met's blurb praising the picture I see it as a less successful work than they do, because to me the artist relies far too heavily on the integrative properties of the vegetation dots: look at the hills on the far shore and imagine them without any of the dots at all. When you do so, I think you will sense that the result would be surprisingly amorphous, and Ni was a fastidious artist (and person), so that is rather uncharacteristic of him.

In general though use of such tools to integrate foreground and background seems more blatant among Japanese artists, who seem to enjoy toying with the notion of two- versus three-dimensional space more than Chinese artists did. I hesitate to generalize about Japanese painting because I know much less about it, but in my experience Japanese painters relative to Chinese painters seem more interested in surface pattern than in the illusion of three dimensional space.

I agree that atmospheric perspective is the likely explanation for the way the hills are rendered in your picture.

Am not qualified to recommend books on Japanese painting other than those you can find easily enough online, but on the China side would recommend a couple of very inexpensive books that cover the basics while also being extremely informative. One is Jerome Silbergeld's Chinese Painting Style. James Cahill's Chinese Painting is old but still good for a view of leading artists, genres, and stylistic developments. Wan-go Weng is editor of a very cheap collection of pictures, all now in the Metropolitan (which has excellent collections of early Chinese and Japanese painting), called Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: A Pictorial Survey. Simply rifling through the pages of this book gives you an immediate appreciation for the diversity and range of styles Chinese artists developed using simple (but hard to master) brush and ink. Find some that you like, whether Chinese or Japanese, and go from there. (another book I particularly like but which you will not find as readily as those above is Wang Yaoting, Looking at Chinese Painting, which conveys Chinese aesthetics--particularly aspects of brushwork--more strongly than these other works do)

Don't hesitate to ask questions, your interest in the art itself is a welcome alternative to the constant stream of thrift store flippers that frequent this site hoping to have stumbled onto a treasure.

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