Bird and Flower Painting of the Ming Dynasty

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    Xu Wei (1521-1593), "Twelve Plants and Calligraphy," China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Handscroll; ink on paper, Gift of Martha Cooke Steadman Fund, 1960, (2710.1)

March 26, 2009 - July 12, 2009
Maurice J. Sullivan Family Gallery of Chinese Art (16)


Exhibition Overview

Bird-and-flower painting enjoys a history that reaches back to the Tang dynasty (618-907). Painting techniques within this tradition range widely in style. Some works employ loose calligraphic brushwork that clearly displays the hand of the artist, and encourages the viewer to engage the painting viscerally, as the artist describes the subject matter in a bare suggestion of structure. Other pieces precisely delineate foliage and feather, to render an astonishing likeness of form that seem to extend out from the page into space. Along with varied approaches to brushwork, bird-and-flower painting can be found in a number of different formats, from massive hanging scrolls to the more delicate and intimate album leaves.

Regardless of style and format, by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the bird-and-flower painting tradition had acquired a crystallized iconography that served to connect these works under a shared convention that continued into the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Within this exhibition are approximately 13 paintings in various formats, which serve as examples of the scope of painting styles found in this genre. The artists will range from notorious personalities of the Ming-dynasty literati painting style such as Xu Wei (1501-1568), to less famous artists such as Wang Guxiang (1521-1593), who produced work that appealed to a broader audience.