Chinese painting is one of the oldest artistic traditions in the world. It is known today in China as ‘native painting’, as opposed to the western style of art which became popular in the 20th century.
The chinese traditional painting style uses the same technique as calligraphy and is done with ink. Oilbased colors are not used. In Western style painting canvases are used but in China the most popular materials on which paintings are made are paper and silk. The finished painting is usually mounted on hanging scrolls or handscrolls.
Painting landscapes has been and still is considered as the highest form of Chinese painting. The time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern song period is known as the “Great age of Chinese landscape”. In the north the artists made pictures of mountains using strong black lines and sharp dotted brushstrokes to create the look of rough stone. In the south the pictures featured soft rolling hills and rivers in peaceful scenes done with softer brushwork. These two techniques became the classical styles of Chinese landscape painting.
In the early years of the PRC, artists were encouraged to employ socialist realism. Some socialist realism was imported from the Soviet Union and painters were given a topic and were expected to massproduce paintings.
This regimen was relaxed in 1953 and after 1956 the Chinese painting experienced a big revival. At the same time as these developments in the professional art circles there was an increase in peasant art depicting everyday life in the rural areas on wall murals and in open-air painting exhibitions.
During the cultural revoloution art schools were closed and the publication of art journals and art exhibitions were stopped.
Since 1978 art schools and professional organizations were reopened. Exchanges were set up with western artists and the Chinese artists began to experiment with new subjects and techniques inspired by the foreign colleagues.