Chinese Oil Paintings: Analyzing Compositions of Painters before Mao, during Mao, and during Late Mao

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  • Published : December 3, 2012
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VIS 127C
Shuai Geng
Dec 1st, 2011

Chinese Oil Paintings in Three Periods:
Before Mao, During Mao and During late Mao
by analyzing compositions of certain painters represented each period

Chinese paintings are one type of the oldest continuous arts in the world, which can be traced back to thousands years ago. Beginning with painting on stones and china, or in caves, to silk and papers with ink and brush, millions painters innovate Chinese paintings in different ways. For instance, the earliest Chinese paintings were found during the Neolithic period, paintings, which were found on stones more often reflecting people’s daily lives such as hunting, dancing or wars. Going on, Qin Dynasty, which was a dynasty once united China, was famous for its Palace and Temple style wall paintings. In Han Dynasty, paintings on silk once appeared in Chinese painting history. Calligraphy played more important role in Chinese painting in Jin Dynasty. In Sui Dynasty, landscape paintings were more focused. Turing in Tang Dynasty, human figures paintings were more developed, so were landscape paintings and flowers and birds paintings. In Song Dynasty, based on past experiences, different paintings were well changed in new ways, especially ink paintings. Also in this period, Xie He established the “Six principles of Chinese paintings” including spirit resonance, bone method, correspondence to object, suitability to type, division and planning, and transmission by copying (Xie, Preface). Yuan Dynasty continued past paintings’ techniques with its own historical subject matters. Lastly, in Ming and Qing Dynasty, much more painters established diversely either in paintings or painting techniques or subject matters. Narrative paintings fulfilled wider color ranges and much more lively paintings became more popular (Pan, P. 1-82). Also, painters started fighting against the traditional rules of painting and established new ways to express themselves more directly through free brushwork. However, no matter how strongly Chinese paintings had being well developed and innovated such as in techniques of using shades, colors, or in subject matters of expressing unique historical stories or different custom, Chinese oil paintings did not get a chance to stand in Chinese art history until late Qing. Starting late Qing Dynasty, even Chinese oil paintings begin to be developed quite late, still, the way of growth of Chinese oil paintings is luxuriant. Basically, the growth of Chinese oil paintings can be divided by three periods in general, which are the period before Mao Zedong, the period during Mao and the period of late Mao, and painters from each period have their own painting styles to represent the general painting of the period such as Xu Beihong’s realism paintings Sound of the Flute and The Foolish Man Who Moved the Mountains before Mao, Zhan Jianjun’s heroism in Five Heroes of Mount Langya and Dong Xiwen’s Kai Guo Da Dian as an example of art used as a tool to serve for the government during Mao, and Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan, an oil painting of Liu Chunhua as a representative of painters lost rights to paint free and Luo Zhongli’s symbolism in the painting Father during the late Mao. Beginning at the late Qing period till the establishment of China, Chinese painters started to get holds of the oil painting skills such that in figures’ expression, characteristics, or use of color. Many painters studied abroad to learn the western style paintings, which played an important role in Chinese oil painting history. Among these students, painters like Huang Fuzhou, Li Shutong, Wang Yuezhi, Chang Yu, Lin Fengmian, Xu Beihong, etc successively came back to China from France and Japan. They involved in Chinese oil paintings in the western painters’ manner, and painted Chinese oil painting with the western painters’ interest and taste. This is one reason why many painters’ oil paintings during their early stage had more foreign...
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