Thursday, March 10, 2011

by Bo Hershey

The Shanghai Museum provides viewers with a look back in time with a
focus on classical and pre-Communist era works. Specifically, one
finds that the collection of paintings found are what make the
Shanghai Museum so intriguing. The exhibit on the classical paintings
of China show how art has changed overtime. If one follows the
chronological aspects of the collection one sees that Chinese
paintings developed overtime.
The variety of styles presented at the Shanghai Museum show that each
period had its own mark in the development of Chinese paintings.
Beginning with the Tang Dynasty one finds that the paintings are
relatively primitive when compared to later periods. The figures don't
have the same natural form but instead illustrate how painters
perceived their world. As artists began to refine their techniques
their paintings had more of a free flowing feel that gave viewers the
sense they were actually there. This is clearly seen in the Song
landscapes. These kinds of paintings are the ones I personally enjoy.
The Song artists developed a painting style that draws the viewer into
the landscape. Their use of ink during this period shows that Song
artists were masters of the natural landscape. For example, the use of
ink washing gave Song paintings misty feel that was naturalistic to
the area it was produced. Another defining feature of the Song
paintings is the lonely human figure lost in the natural landscape.
This shows that the natural world is a much larger place than man. In
addition, the collection encompasses other periods such as the Ming
and Qing. Any viewer finds once that these periods are unique. That
seems to be a unique feature of Chinese paintings. Each period in
China had its own way to present its paintings. The organization of
the exhibit makes this clear through its grouping of period paintings.
The Shanghai Museum has one of the finest collections of Chinese
paintings. Anyone who is studying in Shanghai should at least visit
the Museum at least once to learn about China's artistic history.

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