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Pictorial Songs of the Brush: A Guide to Paintings in the National Palace Museum Collection II

  • #Painting


Landscape Painting: Autumn Scenery

Landscape painting refers to the depiction of views in nature that focuses on how the composition is arranged and the idea or mood expressed, it being one of the best ways for artists to convey their skill and tradition. The range of landscape topics is wide and varied, including scenery associated with the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, the elements of which have been enjoyed by artists for centuries. And of the seasons, autumn, with its falling leaves and the solitude of wild geese heading south, has long conjured a sense of sorrow and nostalgia among both artists and audiences alike. However, autumn is also a season rich with potential, the leaves turning brilliant shades of color, the mountains ablaze in a range of bright hues. Viewed either up close or from afar, the scenery can be ever-changing. Let’s now explore how Chinese artists depicted images of autumn over the years!

Bird-and-Flower Painting

The subject matter in bird-and-flower painting is quite varied, including not only birds and flowers but also fish, insects, and other animals as well as trees, fruits, and vegetables. The techniques likewise vary somewhat; depending on the level of detail for the painting method, they can generally be divided into two types, “fine line” and “sketching ideas.” So how did painters depict bird-and-flower subjects on an autumn day? As autumn winds blow, wild geese start flying south, so the theme of geese and ducks in autumn heading south to spend the winter was a favorite choice among artists to describe the atmosphere of an autumnal day. This exhibition takes the viewpoint of appreciating waterfowl as a way to appreciate how painters interpreted the subject of waterfowl and autumn scenery. At the same time, works done in different techniques and mediums present the splendid variety of bird-and-flower themes as a whole.

Figure Painting: Deities and Spirits

Figure paintings seek to convey the spirit, dynamics, and likeness of the subject. Among them, those depicting Buddhist or Daoist figures and other deities or spirits have been popular starting from the Six Dynasties period, when famous masters of such appeared. The majesty of Buddhist and Daoist images have didactic meaning, while depictions of deities and spirits reveal the transformative world of the normally unseen, allowing for freedom of expression on the part of the artist. These works include deities and spirits, stately and detailed depictions of Buddhist figures in fine brushwork, immortals done in bold strokes of the brush, poignant narrative stories, and Zhong Kui, the demon queller. He is often shown surrounded by demons, who appear in supernatural forms not only grotesque but also with vivid and lively expressions, the fear they inspire also tempered by a touch of whimsy and humor.