History of chinese art Essay Example

Dong Qichang


Dong Qichang

Dong Qichang lived between 1555 and 1636, he is one of the celebrated literati seal artist of China. Dong was renowned scholar, calligrapher and painter who lived during the later period of Ming Dynasty from a poor family (Coopers 1997, 107). During the Ming dynasty there were various types of painting, they included the literati paintings. In addition, to being a painter and calligrapher, Dong Qichang was a scholar. At the age of thirty he passed the Jinshi examination was employed by the Ming government. After passing the Jinshi examination he greatly got involved with the work of painting in the Hanlin Painting academy. He went further and founded the Song Jiang School of painting. In Hanlin, Dong focussed on studying the ancient painting styles. He started developing his style at the age of 50 (Coopers 1997, p.109).

Dong was a theorist who developed the perception that the Chinese painting could be categorised into two approaches the southern and northern. The northern approach entailed gradual painting that had fine lines and good colour schemes. The southern approach entailed the working more quickly by employing calligraphic strokes. The northern and southern theory was to categorise artists and their work and it dominated the Chinese art for over three hundred years after the Ming Dynasty (Coopers 1997, p. 106).

Dong Qichang seal art style

Dong Qichang is credited with having laid the foundation for the modern Chinese painting in 1597. This was after he painted the Wanluan Thatched Cottage which was dedicated to Chen Jiru his friend and mentor. In his work and training he was strict and wanted other artists emulating him to stick to style and theory. This conservative trend led to harbouring creativity during the time which lost the freshness and unique flavour that was associated with literati art (Coopers 1997, p. 108).

His calligraphic style borrowed greatly from the works of earlier distinguished calligraphers such as Zhao Mengfu and Wen Zhengming. The calligraphy used the cursive and non cursive style (see figure 1).The main feature of his artistic work was through a creative approach which showed high discipline and systematic style that sought the spirit of the models.

history of chinese art

Figure 1: Calligraphy of cursive and semi-cursive style, 1603. Tokyo Museum

His seal art paintings paid more attention on stark forms, anomalous renderings which were produced through handling of and brush clumsily. His painting style and writings distinguished him from the other artists (See figure 2). The writings by Dong were in his art and in the various compilations. The writings include The Eye of Painting, the Meaning of Painting and Notes from the Painting. He harmoniously combined painting, calligraphy and poetry.

history of chinese art 1

Figure 2: Eight Views of Autumn Moods, dated 1620. Album of eight leaves, leaf four. Shanghai Museum  

Dong paintings were in the style that related to that of Dong Yuan and Juran. Key to his paintings was the stressing on the beauty; his paintings were well distinguished from the other paintings of the time. Dong Qichang’s paintings landscapes had subtle elegance that is normally exhibited in scholar art. His brushwork also exhibits mature and breezy art which brought out the airy feeling in his work (Coopers 1997, p. 109).


Coopers, J. 1997. Masterpieces of Chinese Art. Todtri Productions, pp.106-109.