Baroque and Beyond C. 1600–1850

Asian Art

Did Chinese painting change during the Qing Dynasty?

The Qing Dynasty was a Manchurian imperial power that ousted the previous Ming rulers and controlled China from 1644-1911. For many Chinese, especially Ming loyalists, this political shift was traumatic and frightening. However, although the Manchurians were a foreign power, they adopted many Chinese art traditions favored by the Ming. Multiple schools of painting developed during the Qing era, including the Orthodox School, which drew inspiration from the earlier Literati painters, and the Individualist School. Individualist painters focused on expressing their personal feelings during the tumultuous time of the Qing takeover. Leading painters of the era included Shitao (1642–1707), an Individualist painter who traced his ancestry to the first Ming emperor. When the Qing took over Beijing, he fled and went into hiding, and then became a Chan Buddhist monk. He wrote extensively on art theory, including his most well known tract, Sayings on Painting from Monk Bitter Gourd, which espoused the significance of the single brushstroke. His work balances expressive energy with soft tones, and is notable for it’s tendency toward abstraction and use of negative space to create a sense of depth. Shitao was one of the most famous Individualist painters because of his innovative manipulations of traditional forms of Chinese painting.


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