February 16, 2010

Art Book: Chinese Landscape Painting by Sherman Lee

(The front of the book was just a basic black hardcover with no sleeve so I photographed the title page.)
BOOK #: 7
REASON READ: Art History Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge
PUBLISHER: Harper & Row
GENRE: NF, Arts, Art History
FORMAT/PAGES: Hardcover/133
RATING: 3.5 Stars

The earliest landscape paintings in China can be dated back to the Late Chou period, which was between 5th and 3rd centuries B.C. The Chinese landscape is primarily a series of brushstrokes strategically arranged to create nature. I learned a lot about the progression of landscape painting throughout the different periods of Chinese history, which the book separated by dynasties that were in power.

There were more conservative movements and more experimental movements. There were periods when paintings were more detailed and periods when they were more suggestive. There was a time when paintings were closely related to the writing and poetry of the time. There was a time when the paintings reflected parts of the political and social aspects of the government of the time. There were paintings of exaggeration and paintings of simplicity.

There were several schools of thought that Lee covered, from the Wu School to the Individualists. Lee covers the boldness (or lack thereof) of the compositions, the refinement, the placement of objects, the mixtures of color (which I couldn't see since the book was in black & white), the use of shadows, the amount of space used (as in how much of the paper was taken up with the painting and how much was left blank), the textures, the various brush strokes, the wet or dry ink. I learned a lot about the different techniques the Chinese artists used throughout history.

The writing in this book got tedious at times and I skimmed over some of the more tedious parts. But I did find a lot to be interested in, from the "fade out" technique of Yao T'ing-mei on his painting The Scholar's Leisure, to the unusual techniques of Ch'eng Cheng-kuei on his handscrolls. I thought the paintings included in the book (which were numerous) were very beautiful and I would have loved to see the color of the ones not done in ink.

Here are some of the paintings included in the book:

(Above: Seasonal Landscape by Hsiao Yun-ts-ung)

(Above: Bamboo Grove and Distant Mountains by Wang Hui, hanging scroll)

(Above: Lee compares the staccato effects via the reed pen of the great artist Van Gogh (whose painting View of Arles is on the left), to the staccato effects of the brush used by Shen Chou (whose painting Scenes at Tiger Hill: Oak and Hammocks with Three Figures at a Well is on the right.)

(Above: The Scholar's Leisure by Yao T'ing-mei, handscroll)(mentioned above)


  1. I applaud you for getting through this. This is the sort of book I just can't get into no matter how I try.

  2. Chinese painting is very beautiful, but I have yet to find a good book about it. Not that I've searched very hard.

    Don't feel bad about skimming through art history books. I skim them all the time and I actually like this stuff. :P

  3. I saw an exhibit of Chinese landscapes a few years ago. The style and the detail was amazing. That sounds like a great book!

  4. This book looks absolutely beautiful! I think I would have skimmed over the tedious parts, too.


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