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European and Chinese Landscape Painting, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 654

Essay

Introduction

Landscape painting has different traditions and ideological backgrounds in the Eastern and Western world. The author of the following essay will compare and contrast the two traditions and techniques.

Thesis Statement

Landscapes in the East and West are different, as they represent not only the environment of the artist, but also their way of viewing the world. Landscapes, therefore, are highly cultural, and cultural differences appear in the imagery, symbolism, and techniques as well. Further, culture determines the purpose of art, and this creates further difference between Chinese and European art.

Literature Review

Mitchell et al. (2009, p. 17) state that “the very notion of landscape is highly cultural”. The authors talk about how culture determines the artist’s self-expression through landscapes.

How the Western Culture Looks at the World

Wood (1998) states that the first landscapes were created to emphasize the setting of the story. This is true for pastoral and even early Christian European paintings. In the Renaissance, landscapes had a role of expressing the painter’s nature-philosophy. Trees became subjects of a picture, and artists tried to represent their environment in the most accurate way. Today’s landscapes, however, are full of emotion, mood, and humanity, and the Western world uses these paintings to represent humanity, instead of culture.

How the Eastern and Chinese Painters See the World

Elkins (2010) states that Chinese landscape painting was designed to represent not only ideology, beliefs, and culture, but also social status. The author, however, argues that paintings should be studied within their own cultural and social context, and many Western art critics misinterpreted the works of Chinese painters, because they looked at them with “western eyes”.

The Purpose of Landscapes in East and West

In the West, the traditional purpose of landscape paintings was decoration, symbolizing status and harmony. In Christianity, it was also used to represent scenes from the Bible, and spirituality. In contrast, the tradition of landscape painting in China reaches back to Daoism (He Weimin Gallery, n.d.), and the concept of empty space is applied throughout the centuries. As Western painters used landscapes to represent human emotions, it is clear that weather has a greater importance in the West than in China (Thornes, 2012).

Findings

The research of Chinese and European landscape traditions and images revealed that there is a different purpose and theme for the landscapes in the two corners of the Earth. Indeed, Chinese landscapes are representing static “empty spaces”, infused with ideas of Daoism, while European landscapes are used to show human emotions, thoughts, feelings, and ways of seeing the world. The role of the painter in Europe is much more active; painters in China are simply creating images, while European artists attempt to show the world through their own eyes.

Conclusion

The initial theis of the research is confirmed, and it is evident that landscape art is influenced by culture, beliefs, philosophy, and religion. Ideas and emotions are more visible in European paintings, however, they are also more narrative. As Drabble (1979, p. 270) describes British landscapes: “The landscape also changes, but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were and what we have become”. As a comparison, Chinese painters did not use landscapes to create emotional reaction and educate: as the recent analysis of the Victoria and Albert Museum (n.d.) concludes: “even works with religious subject matter painted by these artists were not intended for public display”.

References

Drabble, M (1979), A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature, p.270; Methuen, London

Elkins, J. (2010) Chinese landscape painting as Western art history. Hong Kong University Press. Retrieved from http://www.artworlds.org/ab/resources/Landscape/003Elkins.pdf

He Wemin (n.d.) Tradition in twentieth century Chinese painting Retrieved from http://www.heweimin.org/Texts/mystery_of_empty_space.pdf

Thornes, J. (2000) A brief history of weather in European landscape art. Weather. Vol. 55. Issue 10. pp. 363-375.

Victoria and Albert Museum (n.d.) Masterpieces of Chinese painting 700-1900 . Retrieved from http://www.vam.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/238261/Chinese-Paintings-Teachers- Resource-Image-Bank.pdf

Wood, C. (1998) The imagined landscape. In: Tradition and Modernity – Comparative Perspectives. Peking University Press. Retrieved from https://webspace.yale.edu/wood/documents/imaginedlandscape.pdf

Mitchell, N., Rossler, M. & Tricaud, P. (2009) World Heritage Landscapes. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/documents/publi_wh_papers_26_en.pdf

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