Art of Qing Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty (1644–1911): Painting
• In 1644, the Manchus, a semi-nomadic people from northeast of the Great
Wall, conquered the crumbling Ming state and established their own Qing (or
Pure) dynasty, which lasted nearly 300 years. During the first half of this
period, the Manchus extended their rule over a vast empire that grew to
encompass new territories in Central Asia, Tibet, and Siberia. The Manchus
also established their hegemony over Chinese cultural traditions as an
important means of demonstrating their legitimacy as Confucian-style rulers.
The brilliant reigns of the Kangxi (r. 1662–1722) and Qianlong (r. 1736–95)
emperors display a period when the Manchus embraced Chinese cultural
traditions and the court became a leading patron in the arts as China
enjoyed an extended period of political stability and economic prosperity.
Three principal groups of artists were working during the Qing: the
traditionalists, who sought to revitalize painting through the creative
reinterpretation of past models; the individualists, who practiced a deeply
personal form of art that often carried a strong message of political protest;
and the courtiers, the officials, and the professional artists who served at the
Manchu court.
Landscape in the Style of Huang Gongwang, 1666
Wang Shimin (Chinese, 1592–1680)
Hanging scroll; ink on paper Image: 53 x 22 1/4 in.
(134.6 x 56.5 cm)
This major work represents the culmination of Wang
Shimin's lifelong study of the paintings of Huang
Gongwang (1269–1354). Reducing Huang's
calligraphic style to a graphic formula—rock forms filled
with straight, parallel, "hemp-fiber" texture strokes and
layers of horizontal dots—Wang Shimin built his kinetic
brush patterns into rising and falling, opening and
closing, "breath-force" (qishi) movements. Individual
texture strokes and foliage dots crisscross, multiplying
and expanding until the entire composition turns into a
great flowing pattern of undulating forces and
counterforces that suggests nature's boundless energy
and growth.
Wang Shimin was the eldest of the "Four Wangs"—the
others being Wang Jian (1598–1677), Wang Hui
(1632–1717), and Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715). They
were the leaders of the Orthodox school of painting in
the early Qing period.
Wooded Mountains at Dusk, Qing dynasty (1644–
1911), dated 1666
Kuncan (Chinese, 1612–1673)
Born on the Buddha's birthday, Kuncan took Buddhist
monastic vows at the age of twenty-six and became an
ardent follower of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. After the
establishment of the Qing dynasty, he lived in Nanjing,
where his circle of friends included a number of poetpainters who considered themselves loyal yimin
("leftover subjects") of the vanquished Ming dynasty. In
1659, he visited Mount Huang, the scenic "Yellow
Mountain" in southern Anhui Province, and, inspired by
the beauty of the site, decided to devote himself
entirely to painting. For Kuncan, painting was a path to
the self, and he brought to his art the importance of
selfhood espoused by later Chan practitioners.
Kuncan's landscapes, painted in the densely textured
style of the Yuan master Wang Meng (ca. 1308–1385),
are often accompanied by inscriptions that describe a
physical, as well as spiritual, journey through
mountains and over waters.
Mountains at
Dusk, Qing
dated 1666
A traveler
draws the
viewer into the
Landscapes after Ancient Masters, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1674 and 1677
Wang Hui (Chinese, 1632–1717) and Wang Shimin (Chinese, 1592–1680)
Album of 12 paintings; ink and color on paper
after Ancient
Masters, Qing
dynasty (1644–
1911), dated
Gao Cen
(Chinese, active
Album of ten
paintings: ink
and color on silk
Each leaf 8 1/8 x
8 3/8 in. (20.5 x
21.3 cm)
Purchase, C. C.
Wang Gift, 2007
Whiling Away the Summer, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1679
Wu Li (Chinese, 1632–1718)
Handscroll; ink on paper 14 5/16 x 106 5/16 in. (36.4 x 270 cm)
In his inscription, Wu Li records that he painted this handscroll one clear morning after a
rainfall, sitting alone in his studio thinking of an absent friend. There is a dreamlike
quality about the painting: birds, trees, bamboo, mist, and even rocks dance joyously
around the hermit-scholar, who sits quietly reading in his idyllic domain. Although he was
an ardent admirer of Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), Wu transformed the Yuan painter's
"hemp-fiber" texture strokes into a distinctly personal style: cool pale ink textures in
intricate contrasting patterns, silhouetted and suspended in space, have been applied
with both an athlete's vigor and a poet's gentle cadence.
The Palace of Nine Perfections, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1691
Yuan Jiang (Chinese, active ca. 1690–ca. 1746)
Set of 12 hanging scrolls; ink and color on silk H. 81 1/2 in. (207 cm), W. 221 3/4 in.
(563.2 cm)
Yuan Jiang, a successful professional artist in his native Yangzhou, specialized in
intricately described visions of palatial architecture set within sumptuous blue-and-green
landscapes. In reviving the monumental landscape style of the Tang and Song
dynasties, Yuan also catered to a taste for large-scale hanging scrolls and multipanel
screen paintings to decorate the ostentatious mansions of Yangzhou's mercantile elite.
Emperor Guan, Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Unidentified Artist (Chinese, ca. 1700)
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk 68 1/8 x
36 7/16 in. (173 x 42.6 cm)
Guan Yu (died 219 A.D.), a warrior of the late Han
dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) renowned for his
valor and faithfulness, was later venerated as a
saint in the Daoist pantheon. Elevated to the rank
of emperor (di) by the Wanli emperor (r. 1573–
1620) of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Guandi,
as he was thenceforth known, served as a virtual
patron saint of the Manchu rulers of the ensuing
Qing dynasty, who erected numerous shrines in
his honor throughout China. In this image,
Emperor Guan is shown descending from the
heavens with two attendants. He is identified by an
inscription written in gold in the upper right:
"Overseer of the Gate, Sage-Emperor Lord Guan."
Emperor Guan, Qing dynasty
Unidentified Artist (Chinese, ca.
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and
gold on silk
Wangchuan Villa, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1711
Wang Yuanqi (Chinese, 1642–1715)
Handscroll; ink and color on paper 14 X 214 9/16 in. (35.6 X 545 cm)
The elegant Wangchuan Villa situated in the picturesque hills on the outskirts of
Chang'an (modern Xi'an), capital of the Tang dynasty (618–907), is one of the most
famous gardens of ancient China. The rambling estate with spectacular scenery was the
retreat of the poet, musician, and landscape painter Wang Wei (699–759). Almost a
thousand years later, Wang Yuanqi used a rubbing of a Wangchuan composition etched
into stone in 1617 for the general outlines of his painting and referred to Wang Wei's
poems to guide his inspiration. In a colophon appended to the painting, Wang Yuanqi
expresses satisfaction that he has captured some of Wang Wei's idea of "painting in
poetry and poetry in painting."
Portrait of the Imperial Bodyguard Zhanyinbao,
Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1760
Unidentified Artist (Chinese, 18th century)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk H. 74 1/4 in.
(188.6 cm), W. 37 7/16 in. (95.1 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1986 (1986.206)
Under the Manchu emperors of the Qing dynasty,
portraiture again became an important courtsponsored art. This full-length depiction of an imperial
bodyguard of the first rank is from a set of one
hundred portraits of loyal officials and valiant warriors
commissioned by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–95)
that originally hung in the Hall of Imperial Brilliance
(Ziguang Ge), the pavilion in the Forbidden City
where the emperor received tribute offerings and
entertained foreign emissaries.
To execute a commemorative painting project of this
scope as quickly and efficiently as possible, Academy
artists were organized in workshop fashion, with labor
divided by specialization. Zhanyinbao's lifelike
features were probably based on a sketch made from
life by one of the Jesuit artists attached to the court.
The Qianlong Emperor's Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Six: Entering Suzhou
and the Grand Canal, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), dated 1770 Xu Yang (Chinese,
active ca. 1750–76) Handscroll; ink and color on silk

similar documents