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Chinese Ink Wash Paintings

Chinese Ink Wash Paintings

Chinese ink wash paintings originated during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The style really grew in popularity during the Song Dynasty. It was this growth in popularity that led to its advancement as an art form.

The goal of ink wash painting is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. To paint a horse, the ink wash painting artist must understand its temperament better than its muscles and bones. To paint a flower, there is no need to perfectly match its petals and colors, but it is essential to convey its liveliness and fragrance. It may be regarded as an earliest form of expressionistic art that captures the unseen.

In ink wash paintings, as in calligraphy, artists usually grind inkstick over an inkstone to obtain black ink, but prepared inks are also available. Most inksticks are made of either pine or oil soot combined with animal glue. An artist puts a few drops of water on an inkstone and grinds the inkstick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink of the desired concentration is made. Prepared inks are usually of much lower quality. Inksticks themselves are sometimes ornately decorated with landscapes or flowers in bas-relief and some are highlighted with gold.

Ink wash painting brushes are similar to the brushes used for calligraphy and are traditionally made from bamboo with goat, cattle, horse, sheep, rabbit, marten, badger, deer, boar and wolf hair. The brush hairs are tapered to a fine point, a feature vital to the style of wash paintings.

Because Chinese ink wash paintings have been popular for such a long time, there are many outstanding artists which were viewed as masters of this style. Their ink and wash paintings have stood the test of time. The most notable shuimo hua artists are Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Daqian Jushi, Bada Shanren, Su Shi, Gao Xingjian, and Mi Youren.

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