Chinese paintings: Then and now

I love art and art history. I wish I had majored in art history instead of sociology at the University of Hawaii. I would have been so happy being a curator of a museum or gallery.

Traditional Chinese painters typically used ink and colored pigments on silk or rice paper. Their technique was similar to Chinese calligraphy. Oil, which was common in European art, was not used at all.

Though artists often painted royal subjects and court life, landscapes were considered the epitome of traditional Chinese art. The human figure was just a speck next to towering mountains.

By Lu Han (1699). Ink and color on paper:

By Qian Zuan (1200s AD). Ink, color and gold on paper:

By Huang Jucai (1200s AD). Ink and color on silk:

Other traditional Chinese paintings (unattributed):

Then, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), thousands of these priceless and valuable paintings were destroyed. The Red Guard attacked intellectuals and sent them to the farms to work as laborers. There developed a personality cult, based on the revolutionary ideals of Mao Tse Tung. After 10 years, this all came to a halt with the influence of Chou En Lai. However, the damage had been done. These priceless works of art are gone forever.

Now, a new crop of artists has emerged from the rubble. Contemporary Chinese artists have adopted modern techniques to express themselves.

These are examples of contemporary Chinese paintings:

The evolution of Chinese art is absolutely fascinating.

If you can’t attend art history classes at the university, you can always Google for information on the computer. It’s incredible what you can learn from the Internet.

20 Responses to “Chinese paintings: Then and now”

  1. DavidH Says:

    This is all very enlightening. I previously knew nothing about Chinese art and now I have learned a lot in just a few minutes. You certainly know how to thoroughly research and clearly present your findings.

  2. tomthebackroadstraveller Says:

    …they are beautiful, but I like the classic ones best.

  3. Valerie-Jael Says:

    The classiscal paintings are my faves, how sad that so many were destroyed. Thanks for sharing! Valerie

  4. marmeladegypsy Says:

    I find classical Asian art absolutely stunning (I’m always tearing those pages out of my daily calendar and saving them!). It’s tragic to think that so many were destroyed. I can’t say the contemporary ones — or at least most of the ones you shared — knock me out!

  5. Doug M Says:

    It’s always a tragedy when history is destroyed, but I love the contemporary Chinese pieces! I need a dab of culture every now & then, thanks Gigi :^)

  6. Judith Says:

    May I re-blog this on “Artistcoveries”? I’ve recently shared information about Asian art through several “art quiz” features. I think my readers would enjoy your post. Thanks!

  7. Christine Says:

    You certainly know a lot about art history.

  8. Rain Frances Says:

    Hi Gigi! I love the look of the traditional Chinese art, it’s beautiful! The modern art is lovely too, but the ink and color on paper is just so unique! And you’re right, you can learn so much online now! ☺

  9. Arkansas Patti Says:

    What an interesting tour into a medium I had not seen before.Just horrible about the destruction of those paintings.
    Loved both the traditional and modern forms. The one with the airplanes was amazing. I see something I didn’t notice before each time I look.

  10. Beatrice Says:

    Thank you, Gigi, for showing this Chinese art, both the traditional and the modern, both of which I knew very little about. But the traditional was the art I enjoyed seeing most. yes, you can learn so much online these days.

  11. Elephant's Child Says:

    I am a big, big fan of Traditional Chinese Art. Thank you for showcasing it today.

  12. DJan Says:

    Wonderful collection of art over the centuries. I too love the classical the most, but the contemporary art is also very beautiful. 🙂

  13. AC Says:

    While I don’t know the art, I have read a bit about China and the cultural revolution. It was fascinating stuff.

  14. Iris Flavia Says:

    Sad about the lost art. I like all the styles. I have a Japanese pocket mirror and an umbrella, my Dad brought them home in the 1970´s. Sadly the Kimonos are lost. Beautiful art.

  15. Nancy Chan Says:

    I like the traditional art painting, especially the landscapes.

  16. Judith Says:

    Reblogged this on Artistcoveries and commented:
    Today I’m sharing a post from fellow blogger, Glenda Chung Hinchey. She is a third-generation Korean-American who was born and raised in Hawaii. She has written several books about her life in Hawaii and her Korean heritage. You can find more information at her website and blog: Gigi-Hawaii.

    I came across her site recently as I was browsing through the “Reader”. A post about Chinese art caught my attention. I visited the site, read the post, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

  17. Russell Smith Says:

    What an amazing and stunning post! Iconoclasm is the bane of humanity. How sad that such beautiful works of art could be so callously destroyed? Even so, art lives on, despite all adversity. Some of the modern works left me indifferent, others were vibrant, bursting with energy, subtle and sublime. Thank you so much for sharing! PS I’m reading a fabulous novel called Little Gods by Meng Jin, a young Chinese-American woman. I highly recommend it. Best wishes, Russell

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