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Synthesis and Departure in Tradition: Painting, Calligraphy, and Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

Synthesis and Departure in Tradition_ Painting, Calligraphy, and Dong Qichang

Dong Qichang, style name Xuanzai and sobriquet Sibai (also Xiangguang jushi), was a native of Huating (modern Shanghai). He was awarded the Presented Scholar (jinshi) degree in 1589, appointed as a Hanlin Bachelor, eventually reached the post of Minister of Rites at court, and was posthumously given the name Wenmin.

Dong Qichang was not only the leader of art circles in the late Ming dynasty but also a master of his generation who later inspired countless painters and calligraphers. Both his theories and works of art were quite innovative, the realm to which he aspired in tradition called “marvelous at synthesis, divine at departure.” In his wide-ranging pursuit of paintings by famous artists of old, Dong developed a new approach to describe the historical development of painting since the Tang dynasty by dividing it into “Northern and Southern Schools.” He also transcended traditional boundaries of imitating the ancients by taking the unprecedented step of elevating the abstract beauty of brush and ink into a new visual dynamism. This both gave rise to a unique personal style of painting and expressed his ultimate pursuit in the art of painting–the practice and promotion of a “Grand Synthesis” serving as a turning point for later literati painting. In calligraphy, Dong Qichang tended towards classical elegance and untrammeled beauty in traditional styles, also advocating the view of copying as a way to innovate within tradition. Becoming head of late Ming calligraphy circles, his style was much admired by early Qing rulers and was the source for court calligraphers in the Qing dynasty. Dong was also an excellent connoisseur of painting and calligraphy, and many masterpieces by the ancients passed before his eyes and/or became a part of his collection. These works helped him to formulate unique theories of painting and calligraphy continually manifested in his ideas about and practice of art. In fact, many of Dong Qichang’s views still have a profound impact on studying the history of painting and calligraphy up to this day.

This special exhibition on Dong Qichang features selected works of his painting and calligraphy from the more than 300 in his name at the National Palace Museum. It also includes important artworks once seen or collected by him. To clearly present the progression of Dong Qichang’s art and ideas, the exhibit revolves around his numerous dated works, presenting them chronologically as much as possible to provide viewers with a better understanding of his life and artistic accomplishments.

When: 9 Jan – 29 Mar 2016 8:30-18:30
Where: National Palace Museum
Price: Uncertain

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