Chinese history through ink painting
There are few art forms which have survived as long as the traditional art of Chinese Ink Painting. The earliest forms of the medium can be traced back to the Jin Dynasty (265-420) where calligraphy was regarded as the highest form of art. Landscape and figure painting became popular during the Tang Dynasties (618-907) with subjects ranging from impressionistic representations of landscape and colourful portraiture. This form of painterly artistic expression continued into the Song and Yuan Dynasties (960-1279) and developed a more spiritual aesthetic allied to the principles of Taoism and Buddhism.
Traditions of the earlier Yuan painters were revived under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) where artists incorporated poetry and calligraphy into their paintings which they considered would articulate their emotions more than a single painting. Wider ranges of colour were used with compositions inspired by narrative. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) many artists began to break from tradition to explore new sources of artistic expression with increased exposure to Western art in the latter 1800s-1900s.
The usage of socialist imagery was actively encouraged in the formative years of the People’s Republic of China until a revival of traditional Chinese painting took place in the mid-1900s. Art schools, exhibitions and journals were abolished during the Cultural Revolution in response to a campaign that became known as the Four Olds (Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits and Old Ideas) which regarded old traditions as being responsible for China’s poor economic condition. Art establishments were resurrected after the revolution with artists experimenting with new subjects and adopting Western techniques to create a new aesthetic in Chinese ink painting.