During the times of the imperial court, painting and calligraphy were considered to be the most highly valued forms of art. They were almost exclusively produced by amateurs, including aristocrats and scholar-officials because these individuals were the only ones who had the time and leisure to perfect the technique and sensibility required for great brushwork. It was often believed that calligraphy was the most refined and superior kind of art.
The instruments included a brush pen constructed out of animal hair as well as black inks produced from pine soot and animal glue. Silk was the medium of choice for both painting and writing throughout ancient times. Silk, on the other hand, was progressively supplanted by paper following its development in the first century A.D., when it was found to be a more affordable material. Original works created by renowned calligraphers have been highly prized throughout the whole of China’s history. These works are often placed on scrolls and displayed on walls in a manner similar to that of paintings.
Painting in the traditional form is accomplished using a brush that is dipped in either black or colored ink rather than oils, and the methods involved are basically the same as those used for calligraphy. Paper and silk are the two most common supports for artists to use while creating paintings. This is also true for calligraphy. After the work is complete, it is placed on scrolls, which are either rolled up or hung to display. In addition to being done in albums and on walls, traditional painting may also be done on lacquer work and other surfaces.
The landscape, also known as shanshui (mountain-water) art, became the principal subject matter of painting during the beginning of the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907). The goal of these landscapes, which are often monochrome and sparse, was not to duplicate the precise look of nature but rather to capture a mood or atmosphere in order to capture the “rhythm” of nature. Consequently, these landscapes tend to be somewhat stark.
Immeasurable distances were portrayed by the use of hazy outlines, mountain contours fading into the mist, and an impressionistic depiction of natural occurrences during the Song dynasty (960-1279), which produced landscapes with a more nuanced expression. The spiritual aspects of the painting as well as the artist’s ability to express the underlying harmony of man and environment, as seen in accordance with Taoist and Buddhist principles, were the primary focuses of attention throughout the exhibition.
Beginning in the thirteenth century, there was a history of painting basic themes, such as a branch with fruit, a few flowers, or one or two horses. These paintings are considered to be some of the first examples of Western art. During the period of the Ming dynasty, the narrative painting was at the height of its popularity. Compared to Song painting, it had a greater variety of colors and a more intricate composition (1368-1644).
The earliest books to be illustrated with colorful woodcuts emerged during the Ming dynasty of Chinese history. As the processes of color printing became more refined, illustrated instructions on the art of painting first started appearing in print at about the same time. Jieziyuan Huazhuan, also known as the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden, is a five-volume work that was first published in 1679. Since that time, it has been used as a technical textbook for students and artists alike.
The New Culture Movement was the impetus for the beginning of the process through which Chinese artists began to embrace Western practices. Additionally, it was during this time period that oil painting was first brought to China.
Artists in the early years of the People’s Republic were actively pushed to use a style of art known as socialist realism. Some elements of Soviet socialist realism were imported without being altered, and artists were required to mass create paintings based on topics that were allotted to them. This regimen was somewhat eased in 1953, and during the Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1956-57, traditional Chinese art witnessed a great rebirth.
Both of these events took place in China. Along with these breakthroughs in professional art circles, there was a proliferation of peasant art showing ordinary life in the rural regions on wall murals and in open-air painting exhibits. These exhibitions were held in conjunction with the developments in professional art circles.
During the time of the Cultural Revolution, art schools were shut down, and both major art exhibits and the production of art periodicals came to an end. Despite this, the growth of amateur art remained for the whole of this time.
After the end of the Cultural Revolution, universities of art and art-related professional organizations were reopened. As a result of the establishment of exchanges with groups of foreign artists, Chinese painters started experimenting with new topics and methods of expression.