Nature of Asian Art: The majestic art of the Northern Song painters

A look at Early Asian Landscaping and Nature Paintings.

Magpies and Hare - The painting expresses the beginning of a new season. The magpie has joined the hare in welcoming in the spring. The brush strokes on the hill capture the warm breeze of spring. The Hare responds to the familiar sound of the Magpies song and turns to greet his old friend.
Early Spring - The painting expresses both a chaotic and calm presence of the wilderness. The mist, in all it’s hidden beauty, blankets a mountainside dancing off of a roaring waterfall. The chaos of the cascading waterfall tapers into a serene, calm, and clear view of a smaller waterfall emerging from the mist.
Gathering Edible Herbs - This painting echoes shared wisdom. The two men, perched precariously at the edge of a cliff, fearlessly share knowledge. The woven basket used to collect herbs, their simple clothing, and lack of footwear express their relationship to nature and their dependence on it. Their comfortable positions on such a dangerous ledge display a indulgence in nature.
Spring Outing - At first glance, there does not seem to be much but upon closer inspection the painting is of a busy spring day along a river. The two men on horse back entertain a glimpse of the vast country side to be explored. Two other individuals appear to have ended their journey as they approach the water. A vessel in the center holds those in the middle of their travel. An elderly man summarizes everyone’s travels as he navigates the rocky terrain with a cane, his experience and familiarity overpowering any lack of strength or fatigue that comes with age.
Travelers Among Mountains and Streams - In this painting a massively huge mountain with hard and rugged edges and contours wears a dainty skirt of mist. The mountain has a few trees at it’s most elevated but its main adornment is what seems to be a dainty and narrow spill of water down the side. However, it is deceiving and ends in such brutal force a mist is created. The detail is in the bottom of the painting where the water runs from under the mist into shrubbery and begins to break into various streams to continue into unknown regions
Four stages of Blossoming Plum trees - Painters of Song Dynasty enjoyed depicting daily life and their natural surroundings. A constant theme of nature included plum blossoms. The painting clearly depicts the blossoms from their tiniest formation to their final stage ready for pollination. The order of the span is obvious and it is interesting to see they drew the stages left to right. It reminds the viewer of not only a different era but also an entirely different region with so much that we will never have complete understanding of.
Image of Xiao and Xiang - This painting celebrates the powerful and versatile river. It captures it’s vastness by depicting the small images of the men on the water and on the shore. Men fishing and persons in recreation on the water show the diversity of what it offers. The surface appears serene and calm but nature clearly threatens just underneath.
Sketch of rare fowl and fauna - Birds closely followed flowers as a favorite in paintings of this region and era. However, this does not appear to be a view for pleasant entertainment but more a depiction of observations for the education of another. The details of the insects and birds make it easy to identify them and their lack of surroundings does not distract from them mimicking a science journal or nature journal of today.
Bamboos - The painting displays a bamboo before an empty space. It almost feels unfinished but the artist simply wanted to exemplify the beauty and simplicity of the bamboo. The bamboo has a lot of detail with even the rings obvious on it’s stalks. The eyes are slowly drawn to the rock in the center where an entire new view is realized. What was previously empty space are clouds or mist and the lone bamboo is far above on a mountain.
Five Horses - The painting displays five horses. Each drawing is detailed enough to determine they are very different from each other. You can guess at a breed, health and imagining their color to a close degree of what it actually might be is easy. The dress of the person guiding the horse invites you to entertain the purpose of the horse - recreation or work?
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