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Literati Painting of Old Japan

April 9, 2016 - April 9, 2016

April 9 – June 26, 2016 | Curated by Barry Till | Founders Gallery 

It was only in the 18th century that the literati style Chinese Southern School painting of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911), came to be studied on a regular basis in Japan. The works that resulted in Japan were called bunjinga (paintings in the literati style) or nanga (Southern paintings). The paintings were the art of the cultured amateur, who was well versed in Chinese poetry and calligraphy. During the isolationist Edo period (1615-1868), Chinese neo-Confucian studies were encouraged by the shogun rulers of Japan in order to promote public morality, social stability and loyalty to the government. National and regional schools as well as private academies were set up by the government to foster Confucian learning (rujia). Originally this newly created Japanese Confucian class (jusha) concentrated on compiling moralistic and philosophical essays, but after studying the lifestyle of their Chinese literati counterparts, they broadened their studies to include Chinese literature, poetry and paintings.      

They became known as kangakusha (scholars of Chinese learning). Like the Chinese literati painters, they were anti-establishment painters and they too came to reject court-patronized art, which in the Japanese case were the Kano and Tosa schools. Although they all had idealistic and romantic views of the world and strove to the Chinese lofty quietude, each of these artists possessed his own style in accordance to his temperament. Their favourite subjects were landscapes with figures, trees and flowers and they too adopted the Chinese habit of inscribing a poem to complete the painting. They usually wrote a Chinese-style verse. Nanga painting style established itself as a major artistic movement with great speed and in typical Japanese fashion, it was gradually transformed from being Chinese-inspired painting into a new and distinctive Japanese form of art. 

The AGGV has the most comprehensive collection of Japanese literati paintings in Canada and one of the finest in North America. 

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