Comparison between Chinese and Western Paintings Essay Example

  • Category:
    History
  • Document type:
    Article
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
  • Page:
    3
  • Words:
    2180

Table of Contents

3Introduction

3Point to point comparison

3Function

4Content

5Technique

6Emotion express

6Format and presentation

7Colour usage

7Conclusion

8References

8Appendix

Introduction

The ‘Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival’ is famous Chinese painting done by Zhang Zeduan. The painting comprises a long painted scroll, 528cm by 24.8 cm in dimension. It portrays the street view of Bianjing (todays Kaifeng city in Henan province). Bianjing was the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty. The painting depicts 814 humans, 28 boats, 60 animals, 30 buildings, 20 vehicles, 9 sedan chairs and 170 trees. There are two main sections in the painting, one side is the country village and the other side is the city. This painting highlights the people and the landscape of the capital. It also highlights people wearing different clothes and who are interspersed with variety of activities. The painting pays attention to details of people, architecture and animals. These have made it famous.

On the other hand, Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait of a woman by an Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci. This oil painting has claimed many awards including the ‘Best Known’, the ‘Most Visited; and the ‘Most Parodied Work of Art’ in the world. The painter used the special technique to point out the smile of Mona Lisa. The portrait seems to smile to the audience, which in actual sense it does not. This is due to the fact that the painter used the illusion of the eyes, which has made the painting famous. In addition, other than the smile, the eyes of the Mona Lisa are unique. Whichever the direction she is looked at, audiences perceive her eyes to appear alive.

This paper compares the differences between Chinese and western painting in 6 features, which are function, emotional expression, content, colour usage, technique formats and presentation. It is interesting to note that the two cultures have different styles of painting.

Point to point comparison

Function

There are three broad types of functions in Chinese painting: they are instrumental, semiotic and embodying functions. Instrumental indicates that the paintings can be brought together. For instance, the Chinese paintings have served as instrumental in promoting social purpose. The semiotic functions mean its status as an act of communication. Lastly, embodying functions are those that are derived from the art forms character as a medium of consciousness. Chinese painting is primarily for the painters’ self-spirit expression. The ‘Riverside Scene of Qingming Festival’ clearly defines the feeling of the painter. The painter wants to express the feeling of the people, live in the northern Song capital of Kaifeng city and near the river, on both sides of the bustling and lively sight and beautiful natural scenery.

On the other hand, the main subject matter in western painting used to have a functional purpose. For instance, they document scenes, portraits of nobility and aristocrats. Additionally, they are used for religious purposes. The woman in the painting is wearing a luxury dress with silk scarves. Many people believed that this woman is a wife of a rich government officer.

Content

While the Western paintings centre on human form as the key theme, Chinese paintings centre on nature, architecture or landscape as the key themes. Landscape is hence at the highest prominence in Chinese classical art par excellence, with man at the centre of philosophy, based on inspirations from nature. Indeed, this is depicted in the two paintings (Pierre 2013).

For instance, the 5.28-meter long Riverside Scene at the Qingming Festival painting has some 550 people in varied clothes and who show different expressions, doing different activities. It shows appropriate spacing using an artful painting composition method (Valerie 1996). There are also between 50 and 60 livestock, namely mules, horses, donkeys, cattle and donkeys. Also, 40 carriages and vessels in ranging sizes are depicted in the painting. The architectures, namely buildings, bridges and city towers have particular characteristics and depict the architectural designs of the Northern Song Dynasty (Chinaonlinemuseum.com 2010).

Chinese paintings centre on nature. The Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival painting is a kind of long handscroll painting. It adopts a form of splashed clairvoyance painting composition method, which uses complex sceneries in a varied and unified frame. It also gives detailed description of the affluent vision and the natural sceneries of the Bian River, Northern Song Dynasty and Bianliang (Valerie 1996). The painting is made up of three sections, namely the spring scenery of Bianliang, busy streets and the Bian River dock. From representative aspects, including traffic, commerce, architecture and river transportation, the painting presents a complex scene of the busy and blooming visions of the suburban area, downtown streets and the Bianliang waterway, which make up the economic and political centre of Northern Song Dynasty. The complex scene presents an in-depth and vivid social life of Biangliang, some 1,000 years ago (Chinaonlinemuseum.com 2010).

Western painting centre on human nature themes. The Mona Lisa painting is literarily a portrait that depicts a sitter in front of an imaginary landscape. A mythical woman is depicted seated in what seems to be an open terrace that has shadowy pillar, based on either side. Her, face, neck and breast show radiance from the same light on her hands. The light issues a range of living surfaces and underlying geometry of circles and spheres. The chair’s armrest serves as the dividing element between the viewer and Mona Lisa. In the painting, a women sits noticeably upright with the arms folded, which signified a reserved posture. It is only the woman’s gaze that is fixed to the observer and which appears to welcome the observer to her silent communication (SmartHistory 2014).

Technique

Chinese painters tend to use broad strokes and lines as the chief expression in composing the image’s general structure. The strokes and lines either have bold expressive forces or are vigorous. Further, the traditional method Chinese painters use include classifying the natural elements into the component of the subjects to attain a balance in composition. In the Western painting, the chief expression is creation of realistic scene (Pierre 2013). Hence, the painters will often use colour, appearance and the relationship between the shadow and the light with the view of letting the viewer to feel surrounded by the environment created in the painting. Also, Western paintings highlight the details of nature, although the nature may have patterned skies, horizons and foregrounds. The painter shows the relationship between light, colour, textures and patterns that are integrated in the subjects and objects. Hence, less visible or definite brush strokes are used. The depth of colour may also be neutral, hence enabling the hue of the foreground and background to integrate.

Unlike Mona Lisa painting, the brushwork in the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival handscrol — although precise — is dazzling and hence noticeable, which depicts realism in Chinese painting (CeRoArt 2014). Hence, the handscroll make it possible to show the objects in the painting at different angles, hence creating moments of suspense to entice the observer to go on looking.

Further, Mona Lisa depicts the Florentine tradition of outlining painted image, a technique called sfumato, which is Italian for vanish (SmartHistory 2014). To this end, imperceptible transitions are made between the light and shade and in some instances between the colours, which are blended in a way that depicts smoke using brush strokes, which are imperceptible or invisible to the naked eye.

Emotion express

In Chinese paintings, the painters embed their emotions in the painting instead of merely depicting the details of the subjects and objects in their works. Hence, a lot of broad brush strokes and white spaced are evident, which are intended to inspire the viewer to imagine. Additionally, the bases of Chinese paintings are affected deeply by classic philosophy, and hence would usually have some form of poetry or philosophy transcribed in the painting. For instance, unlike the Mona Lisa, the front piece of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival has imperial poetry done by Qianlong Emperor (1697-1763) (Chinaonlinemuseum.com 2010).

Both paintings have blurred outlines, dramatic contrasts of dark and light, graceful figure. However, unlike the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival, the Mona Lisa painting has an overall feeling of calmness. The sense of harmony attained in the Mona Lisa painting reflects an idea of a link that connects nature to humanity. This lacks in the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival painting. For instance, a great commotion is noticeable that makes the bridge and the people vibrant. Additionally, the crowd at the bridge appear to be shouting and gazing at the boat (CeRoArt 2014). Furthermore, unlike the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival that shows extensive human existence within nature, the winding paths, in addition to the distant bridge, show the slightest signs of human existence or presence.

Format and presentation

Chinese painters tend to use flattened perspective. Hence, by looking into the Chinese painting no particular point of guide is perceivable. Such lack of perspective is intended to make viewers to imagine, meditate and think. Unlike Western painting, Chinese paintings use idealistic approach, hence depicts more than what is visible through naked eye. In Western paintings, the variety perspective is used (Pierre 2013). The painters develop a real view of what they see, as well as, use many perspective and expression techniques. For instance, the pyramid design was used to place the women in the Mona Lisa in the space of the painting. The woman’s folded arms form the pyramid’s front corner (CeRoArt 2014).

.(Landrus 2010) used principles of Western perspective to design the architectural elements existing in the handscroll, namely the streets, bridge and buildings, to give them proper proportion. The distance between the near and far is accurately done in both paintings Riverside Scene at Qingming FestivalLike the Mona Lisa painting, the The perspective and the view point of the painters also form a key tenet. However, in both paintings, the difference between the subject(s) and the objects, set on the background, used aerial perspective to form an illusion of depth, or the ‘farther the distance the smaller the smaller the scale” (Cage 1990).

Colour usage

In Chinese painting, rather than painting the details, the painters make the complex landscape simpler by painting the details and depicting the landscape’s general overview, using ink and brush. Use of colour is richer in Western painting as painters tend to apply different colour to allow for expression of the perception of the world and natural scenery. Hence, Western paintings bring about livelier colours that make them to have stronger visual impact than Chinese paintings (Cage 1990).

Unlike the Mona Lisa painting, the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival painting is done in ink, as well as colours on silk. The woman in the Mona Lisa painting’s brightly lit face is basically framed with a range of darker elements, namely shadows, hair and veil (Landrus, M 2010). The woman’s hair and the lumiscence of her skin are created using layered transparent colour, making her face seem glowing and giving the painting a physically light quality (Cage 1990). The deep browns noticeable in the woman’s face, specifically the eyes, were not generated through final application of glaze solely, as the shadow were painted directly onto the white ground, while use of black carbon pigment is also evident (CeRoArt 2014).

Conclusion

The Western and the Chinese paintings are different in terms of function, content, Emotion express, colour usage, technique, format and presentation.
While the Western paintings centre on human form as the key theme, Chinese paintings centre on nature, architecture or landscape as the key themes. Chinese painters tend to use broad strokes and lines as the chief expression in composing the image’s general structure. In western paintings, less visible or definite brush strokes are used. Chinese painters tend to use flattened perspective hence by looking into the Chinese painting no particular point of guide is perceivable. Again, unlike Western painting, Chinese paintings use idealistic approach, hence depicts more than what is visible through naked eye. In Chinese painting, the painters make the complex landscape simpler by painting the details and depicting the landscape’s general overview using ink and brush. Use of colour is richer in Western painting as painters tend to apply different colour to allow for expression of the perception of the world and natural scenery.

References

Vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 518-541The Art Bulletin,Cage, J 1990, «Color in Western Art: An Issue?»

CeRoArt 2014, Paint handling in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa: guides to a reconstruction, viewed 29 May 2014, http://ceroart.revues.org/3828

Chinaonlinemuseum.com 2010, Along the River During the Qingming Festival, viewed 29 May 2014, http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-along-the-river.php

Cultural China 2014, Painting of Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival by Zhang Zeduan, viewed 30 May 2014, http://arts.cultural-china.com/en/63Arts373.html

Landrus, M 2010, Leonardo da Vinci’s Giant Crossbow, Springer, New York

Pierre, B 2013, What are the differences between traditional Chinese painting and Western painting? viewed 29 May 2014, http://studyinchina.universiablogs.net/2013/09/30/what-are-the-differences-between-traditional-chinese-painting-and-western-painting/

SmartHistory 2014, Leonardo’s «Mona Lisa», viewed 29 May 2014, http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/leonardo-mona-lisa.html

Valerie, H 1996, «Mystery of the Qingming Scroll and Its Subject: The Case against Kaifeng», Journal of Song-Yuan Studies vol. 26, pp.183–200.

Appendix

Chinese famous painting: Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival)图》(《清明上河

Signature:

Western famous oil painting: Mona Lisa

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