Ink wash painting
Ink wash painting (simplified Chinese: 水墨画; traditional Chinese: 水墨畫; pinyin: shuǐmòhuà; Japanese: 水墨画, romanized: suiboku-ga or Japanese: 墨絵, romanized: sumi-e; Korean: 수묵화, romanized: sumukhwa) is a type of Chinese ink brush painting which uses black ink, such as that used in East Asian calligraphy, in different concentrations. It emerged during the Tang dynasty of China (618–907); it overturned earlier, more realistic techniques. It is typically monochrome, using only shades of black, with a great emphasis on virtuoso brushwork and conveying the perceived "spirit" or "essence" of a subject over direct imitation. Ink wash painting flourished from the Song dynasty in China (960–1279) onwards, as well as in Japan after it was introduced by Zen Buddhist monks in the 14th century. Some Western scholars divide Chinese painting (including ink wash painting) into three periods: times of representation, times of expression, and historical Oriental art. Chinese scholars have their own views which may be different; they believe that contemporary Chinese ink wash paintings are the pluralistic continuation of multiple historical traditions.
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In China and Japan as well as much less so in Korea, ink wash painting formed a distinct stylistic tradition with a different set of artists working in it than from those doing other types of painting. In China especially it was a gentlemanly occupation associated with poetry and calligraphy. It was often produced by the scholar-official or literati class, ideally illustrating their own poetry and producing the paintings as gifts for friends or patrons, rather than painting for payment.
In practice a talented painter often had a very useful advantage in climbing the bureaucratic ladder. In Korea, painters were less segregated, and more willing to paint in two techniques, such as mixing areas of colour with monochrome ink, for example in painting the faces of figures.
The vertical hanging scroll was the classic format; the long horizontal handscroll format tended to be associated with professional coloured painting, but was also used for literati painting. In both formats paintings were generally kept rolled up, and brought out for the owner to admire, often with a small group of friends. Chinese collectors liked to stamp paintings with their seals and usually in red inkpad; sometimes they would add poems or notes of appreciation. Some old and famous paintings have become very disfigured by this; the Qianlong Emperor was a particular offender.
In landscape painting the scenes depicted are typically imaginary or very loose adaptations of actual views. The shan shui style of mountain landscapes are by far the most common, often evoking particular areas traditionally famous for their beauty, from which the artist may have been very distant. Including water, for example oceans and lakes is common.