EXHIBITIONS FEATURE RARE LANDSCAPE PAINTINGS AND EXQUISITE CERAMICS FROM THE 13TH TO 14TH CENTURIES
November 25, 2014
Landscape painting has been one of the most celebrated accomplishments of Chinese culture since the third century, treasured by artists, patrons and scholars alike. Drawn from the Freer Gallery of Art’s rare Chinese paintings collection—one of the finest in the world—“Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Yuan Legacy” is the second in a two-part series designed to highlight the evolution of landscape painting across more than 400 years, from the 10th to the 14th centuries. On view from Nov. 22 to May 31, 2015, “The Yuan Legacy” connects the unique stylistic innovations of five of the greatest Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) masters with the evolution of later styles and artistic traditions.
Due to their sensitivity to light, such paintings can only be on public view once every five years; some works in the exhibition have not been seen in decades.
“We are showing incredibly significant works, including rare, original signed works by major Yuan artists—such as the influential Wang Meng’s earliest dated work,” said Stephen Allee, associate curator for Chinese painting and calligraphy at the Freer and Sackler. “These remarkable masterpieces illustrate the characteristic elements of Yuan dynasty styles that were adapted and reinterpreted by artists in subsequent dynasties.”
While earlier styles and techniques continued to thrive and evolve, unlike their predecessors, many Yuan dynasty painters did not serve at the imperial court, and they championed different ideals and brought new individualist approaches to Chinese landscape painting. In particular, five Yuan dynasty masters from southern China—Zhao Mengfu, Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan and Wang Meng—spearheaded innovative styles that profoundly influenced later generations. Their works reflect the idealized pleasures of reclusion and draw spiritual inspiration from quiet landscapes, such the solitary fishermen by Wu, the quiet hills on the river by Sheng and the vision of simple country life by Wang.
A complementary exhibition of Yuan dynasty ceramics, “Chinese Ceramics: 13th–14th Century,” will be on view Dec. 20 to Jan. 3, 2016, providing a sense of the vitality of Yuan culture and lifestyle and the importance of foreign interactions. Chinese ceramic creations—including celadon from the celebrated ceramics center of Longquan and porcelain from Jingdezhen, known as China’s “Porcelain Capital”— offer stunning examples of ceramic art that reveal why Yuan dynasty goods had such strong appeal both within China and for international trade.
The museum’s full collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy from the period is available online at the continuously updated Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy Web resource. Every work is fully documented through images and related text. Chinese texts in inscriptions, labels and seals have been transcribed, and texts of art historical relevance are accompanied by annotated English translations.
The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit asia.si.edu or follow twitter.com/freersackler or facebook.com/freersackler. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.