Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chinese Painting Comes to London

Court ladies preparing silk, 12th Century
The V&A's Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900 exhibition opened in London today. I wasn't there but I gather it was a hit. Amazingly, it's the UK's first major exhibition of Chinese painting since 1935. The western telling of art history tends to focus almost exclusively on Europe and (later) North America, and yet here is evidence - if it were needed - of sublime art from the east which has been otherwise pretty much ignored. Depictions of Buddha dominated early on (just as depictions of Christ did in Europe), but court life, landscapes, wildlife and other subject matter follow, much like in the west. It's true that there are differences: painting in China was generally on silk, rolled up in a scroll and viewed occasionally, not on framed canvas and hung permanently on walls; much of the development of western art has been about technique and perspective while Chinese art is perhaps more about the poetry of expression. But what do I know. In any case, sounds like a great show.

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