Dating back many thousands of years, with its roots in the brush strokes of Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese Brush Painting (“guohua” 国 画 ) is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world.
Chinese painters use a traditional brush dipped into black ink, or colour on special paper or silk. Subjects include flowers, birds, animals, mountains and rivers. The painter aims to capture the life and spirit of the subject, making it live through the brush of the painter and the eyes of the viewer.
There are two main styles of traditional Chinese Painting: meticulous and free brush. The meticulous style, “gong bi” ( 工 笔 ) is very detailed and naturalistic. Paintings are calm and elegant, realistic but expressing the harmony of nature as a principle. This style uses outline and blended washes.
The painting style of the literati is called free brush or freestyle, actually “xie yi” meaning to write an idea ( 写 意). This style is simple and spontaneous, and uses a wide range of brush strokes to represent the subject.
See our Gallery, for examples of Chinese Painting by our members.
Chinese painting materials are readily available in the UK and are not expensive. Look here for details on materials, including the “Four Treasures”: special brushes and paper, ink and ink stones.
Here is a list of some books on Chinese Painting, art and history. There are also books about specific artists.
Gresham College lectures include a series on Chinese Art by Craig Clunas.
Lectures on Chinese Landscape Painting by Professor James Cahill.
How to Read Chinese Paintings lecture by Maxwell K Hearn.
Wikipedia has much information on Chinese Painting and famous Chinese artists.
Learn about the Lingnan school of Chinese Brush Painting. More on painting and calligraphy.
Christie’s has expertise in Chinese art:
- A guide to the creative and expressive art form of Calligraphy
- Collecting Guide: 7 things to know about Chinese traditional painting
- Chinese contemporary ink — the artists you should know