Masterpieces of Chinese Painting – Met Museum’s Collection

Chinese Painting Met NY

Night–Shining White, Tang dynasty (618–906), ca. 750 Han Gan (Chinese, active 742–56), Handscroll; ink on paper; 12 1/8 x 13 3/8 in. (30.8 x 34 cm) Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1977, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a significant collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, amassed over a century by those leading their Department of Asian art, all of whom it seems had a discerning eye.

To mark the centenary of the department, they will present an exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection, consisting of 110 works of painting and calligraphy dating from the Tang Dynasty (608 – 917) to the present day.

The exhibition will include the oldest piece in the Museum’s collection, Han Gan’s Night Shining White, an eighth-century painting of the favourite horse of Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–756)

The Chinese dynastic histories started before the birth of Christ and continued unbroken until 1911.

Paper in China emerged in 105 AD, a period of classical literature when the Book of Odes containing some 300 poems was about celebrating great moments of ceremony or ritual.

The Tang (618-907) dynasty saw the prestige of China growing throughout Asia and she became involved with affairs beyond her borders.

Missions of commercial, rather than diplomatic, also reached China from India at this time.

According to one report, from Byzantium. Iran sent embassies between 713 and 750, which included dancers, musicians and horsemen.

Po Chu-I (772-846) was a major poet known for his ballads and satirical poems and he became legendary in Chinese history.

Picture of Po  from the book "Wan hsiao tang".

Picture of Po Chu-I (772-846) from the book “Wan hsiao tang”.

Po collated his works into 75 chapters of prose and verse and his house and garden was full of wonderful treasures.

His style based on simplicity had an earthy grace, as he laid bare society and all its ills while celebrating the joys of existence.

He insisted poetry must be understandable by ‘old country women’ and his subtle and very natural style later influenced many modern Western writers.

In a letter to a member of the literary set Po stated, “… literature should be written to serve one’s own generation, and poems and songs to influence public affairs.”

His friendship with Yuan Chen became a national institution in China. In a letter to his friend he said, ‘Literature should be written to serve one’s own generation, and poems and songs to influence public affairs.’

Po also recorded on his friend’s death that “… we drank together and when we parted, with tears in his eyes, he gave me two poems

Do not scold me for still being here! I know I have stayed too long
I have tried hard to say good-bye, but words will not come

Let me stay, for few are left of our grey-headed band
Tomorrow you may not get the chance of a meeting such as this

The biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru by Huang Tingjian (1045-1105) will also offer a glimpse into the high art of Song dynasty calligraphy.

Measuring almost sixty feet in length, they contain nearly 1,200 characters, the longest extant work of its kind ever completed.

It’s a masterpiece of cursive writing, spontaneous and self-expressive.

A grand sweeping statement, although the work is unsigned, scholars have attributed it to Huang Tingjian, who was renowned for pouring out his emotion onto paper.

Scroll Lian Po and Lin Xiangru

Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru, ca. 1095, Huang Tingjian (Chinese, 1045–1105), Handscroll; ink on paper; Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Scholars confirm that the ‘…scroll became a treasured work in the Song imperial collection, as confirmed by the seals of Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127–62) placed over the paper joins as a kind of inventory mark to prevent the removal of a portion of the scroll’.

Chinese Calligraphy

Detail: Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru, ca. 1095, Huang Tingjian (Chinese, 1045–1105), Handscroll; ink on paper; Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Sung Emperors did not hesitate to wield the brush themselves in the art of calligraphy, at a time when the development of printing became central to a great burst of intellectual activity.

Works on view will include a selection of imperial calligraphy paired with works by the top court painters, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui.

The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) considered by historians, and the Han Chinese, as the last great dynasty that was really Chinese.

It was during the Ming period that a business class grew up in China and our own economic system is likely to have grown out of the west’s fascination with the east and her craving for luxury goods at this time

Historians and the Han Chinese consider the Ming period 1368 to 1644 as the last dynasty that was really Chinese.

It seems relatively near and modern in the long context of Chinese history and in 1368 when it began, many scholars consider the supreme periods of the major arts, such as literature, calligraphy and painting had already passed.

Finally the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) works will include a strikingly modernist-like ink painting Birds in a Lotus Pond by Zhu Da (1626–1705), the sumptuous Whiling Away the Summer and another ink painting, by Wu Li (1632–1718), plus two massive hand scrolls from the Qing imperial court.

They document inspection tours of the southern part of the Empire taken by two emperors, Kangxi (r. 1662–1722) and Qianlong (r. 1736–1795). Filling an entire wall more than 50 feet long, they will provide a rare opportunity for visitors to view them side-by-side.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

Scholars Chinese

Elegant Gathering in the Apricot Garden, Ming dynasty, ca. 1437, After Xie Huan (Chinese, ca. 1370–ca. 1450), China, Handscroll; ink and color on silk; Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1989, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection

On Show until October 11, 2016 

Exhibition Location: Douglas Dillon Galleries, C.C. Wang Family Gallery, Frances Young Tang Gallery, Galleries 210–216

 

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