Dong Qichang, in the Shade of Summer Trees, 17th Century, Ming Dynasty

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Lindsay David
Art History 6D
3 June 2008

Dong Qichang, In the Shade of Summer Trees, 17th century, Ming Dynasty

This painting is from the Ming Dynasty, and very clearly depicts and captures the essence of The Southern School, or Literati painters.
The first thing to note is the overall composition of the painting. First and foremost it is a landscape painting. The colors are very monochrome; the space is stretched to reveal a depth to the painting that the eye cannot capture; and there is stillness to the art that embraces nature and serenity of life. In the right-hand corner of the painting there is calligraphy. The calligraphy lacks the precision, but is very clear in its form, much like the depiction within the painting itself.

There are three men in the painting. The men are at ease and are almost lost in the painting. The men do not seem distinct from their surroundings but rather just another natural element in the bigger picture. The men are in poses that do not suggest positions that can be held for long periods of time, but rather only a moment. The men appear to be marveling at their surroundings as they look out into the vast wilderness. Above them, and hidden behind trees, there is a building. Just like the men, the nature and trees overwhelm the structure itself, clearly defining the more important and powerful of the two.

Just below the men, there is a waterfall. The water appears to be making its way downward winding its way through the clusters of rocks. Water, representing the source of life, flows in this painting with great force, capturing the vitality and life of an individual moment in nature.

This painting possesses a narrative emphasizing nature and the life that exists beyond human existence. It is the influence of nature on the human and not the influence of the human on nature.
While the painting lacks the formal resemblance we recognize from photographs or our own perception, there is an overall...
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