Dong Qichang and the Formation of the Literati Canon
Doris Duke Theatre
About the Lecture:
The literati style of Chinese painting emerged gradually during the late Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, from the brushes of the scholar-amateur painters who saw painting as one of the arts of the cultivated man. But it was the late-Ming theorist Dong Qichang, himself a literati painter par excellence, who named and described the differences between what he saw as the workmanlike products of the professional’s brush and the inspired and intuitive brushwork of the scholar-official. To Dong, the goal of the true artist was not to hold the mirror up to nature, but rather to express his own ingenuity and cultivation through the movements of his brush. He wrote, “In uniqueness of scenery, a painting is not the equal of a natural landscape. On the other hand, when you think of the remarkable power of brush and ink, the natural landscape is definitely inferior to a painting.” Dong’s influence on Chinese art history was tremendous: his judgments served to shape the canon of literati painting for centuries after his death, and the categories and schools into which he organized the painters of the past are still used in Chinese painting scholarship today. This lecture investigates the reasons why his theories had such remarkable influence and staying power.
Kate Lingley is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Her principal area of research is the art of the Northern Dynasties in China, with a particular interest in art patronage and the influence of Silk Road cultures during China's early medieval period. She is also the curator of a recent exhibition of 19th- and 20th-century Chinese painting and calligraphy.