Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy,

Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century [PDF / EPUB] Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century This book presents a survey of Chinese painting from the eighth to the th century, a period during which the nature of China s pictorial art changed dramatically This book presents a survey of Chinese Chinese Painting PDF/EPUB Ã painting from the eighth to the th century, a period during which the nature of China s pictorial art changed dramatically.


10 thoughts on “Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century

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    One of the world s oldest continuous traditions of visual art, Chinese painting allows for both comparison with major developments within the Western tradition, and for a close study of the relation between styles of representation and their political context Three major insights emerge from Wen Fong s lucid and meticulous analysis, in Beyond Representation, of a major turning point in Chinese art history The first is that Chinese painting attained an immensely sophisticated level of natural One of the world s oldest continuous traditions of visual art, Chinese painting allows for both comparison with major developments within the Western tradition, and for a close study of the relation between styles of representation and their political context Three major insights emerge from Wen Fong s lucid and meticulous analysis, in Beyond Representation, of a major turning point in Chinese art history The first is that Chinese painting attained an immensely sophisticated level of naturalistic representation by the middle of the 11th century long before similar developments in the European Renaissance associated with the application of perspective The second is that the reaction against this culmination of naturalism in the Northern Song Dynasty led to a self conscious exploration of painterly abstraction that predates the advent of European modernism nearly a thousand years later The third insight, which brings Fong s formal aesthetic analysis fully into the flow of Chinese political history, is that these shifts were deeply rooted in the often tumultuous circumstances of Chinese political life Chinese painting is intrinsically political, and there is no formal analysis that can fully account for its subject without recognizing this One comes away from Fong s book convinced that, as with the best European art history in the tradition of Burckhardt, Baxandall, Schorske, and Silverman, any good art history will at the same time be a good history tout court.The problem at the heart of Fong s book, amply illustrated with rarely seen treasures from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is that China achieved a degree of realistic representation in painting unparalleled in world history by around 950 1050CE, and then gave it up Typically, this development is lamented, and associated with an overall decline in Chinese creativity in the arts and sciences following the Mongol invasion and the fall of the Song Dynasty James Cahill, in his brilliant discussions of Ming painting, expresses this perspective, seeing the turn away from an earlier realism and towards what nowadays most people think of as stereotypical Chinese painting as a loss, a suffocating orthodoxy that abandoned to Europe the great innovations that would lead to the golden age of modernism In contrast, Fong argues for the turn to literati landscape painting in the style of Ni Tsan as a great advance and a brave foray into abstraction Fong is a fan of the scholar amateur painting that eventually came to define the aesthetic ideal in painting He is critical of the earlier naturalistic tradition as and here the parallels with Europe are interesting academic Where Cahill looked to the great Song landscapes or the bird and flower studies of Emperor Huizong and others as marvelous accomplishments that were heedlessly abandoned, Fong sees them as mannerist ideological expressions of state orthodoxy One does not have to resolve that difference, as significant as it is, to benefit from Fong s detailed tracking of the transformation itself At each shift in stylistic emphasis, he identifies a fulcrum of political crisis, and in each case the agents of change who shift the balance are those servants of imperial power, the scholar bureaucrats, who gradually transform painting from an artisanal practice into a vehicle of political critique It was leftover aristocrats of the Tang, for example, who invented the glories of monumental Song landscape painting as an expression of newfound stability, for example Most interestingly, the initial impetus for a shift from realism came not from the chaos of a dynastic collapse but from a reaction against social reform The earliest diatribes against realism in painting came from conservative Confucians who objected to the expansive welfare policies of Emperors Shenzong and Huizong in the 11th and 12th centuries This tradition of Confucian moral idealism, critical of concern with external likeness in painting and dismissive of the technical competency which underlay it devalued realism as menial, artisanal, and servile, not worthy of gentlemanly appreciation Thus was the tradition of impressionistic landscape painting was born When realism was reintroduced to China with European contact in the 16th century, it was greeted with derision by the mandarin elite.At the root, according to Fong, of the bifurcation of Chinese painting into two traditions, that of the literati landscape and that of the imperial academic realist, was the split between the imperial state and its servant bureaucracy which emerged during the Song and becameaggravated over the next millenium It was the Song Academy which had sponsored the golden age of naturalism, and later academies would as well And it was the alienation of scholar bureaucrats from the imperial state to which they were forever beholden that drove them away from academic realism, from the state ideology which it expressed, and towards aindividualistic, non representational form of art As radical as it was in its day, there is tremendous irony in the fact that, as Fong duly notes, this literati tradition of landscape painting itself became a kind of orthodoxy under the Ming, when it served in turn to stifle innovation


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