Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shanghai Museum

The Shanghai Museum showcased scroll paintings from different periods
of China's many dynasties. The paintings were displayed in a unique
style that I had never seen in traditional western art. The paintings
were on long rectangular scrolls. The scrolls all seemed to be around
the same height but some of the scrolls stretched out for at least 15
feet. This enabled the artists to paint a truly panoramic scene. Very
quickly the lack of vibrant color became a pattern. Many of the
paintings only used black ink while other paintings with color used
muted colors. The paintings focused on the natural world, with humans
taking a less important role. Many of the paintings either had small
insignificant depictions of humans or no life whatsoever. Paintings of
trees and tree limbs were very common, almost always of the black and
white variety. These drawings of tree limbs were minimalist, with a
premium put on the meaning of each and every brush stroke. The last
painting we observed was a panoramic scroll painting of a town, this
was the first to use bright colors, mainly for the tree leaves.

In most of the paintings, whether vertical or the panoramic scrolls
there was writing and seals on the edges of the paper. These seals
were seals from the paintings various owners as well as seals of
approval from other artists. The seals were a signature of the time
and were personalized. The characters on the paintings gave the artist
the ability to further express the theme and meaning of the particular
painting. The writing was often a poem that fit the feeling of the
painting. Overall the paintings seemed to be dark and serious, with a
strong emphasis on the romanticism of nature's beauty.Taylor Williams

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