The Rebirth of the Canon:
The Art of the Copy in Chinese Painting and Calligraphy
Museum für Asiatische Kunst
Within any particular art-form, the canon is the collection of works which are generally recognized as being the most influential of their respective eras. A characteristic phenomenon in the development of Chinese painting and calligraphy is that Chinese artists always learned by imitating classical works. This does not mean, however, that they were not creative or original. Their distinctive practice was to model themselves on the canon, learning, by copying, to paint in the historical styles of the old masters, but on this foundation they went on to create their own completely individual styles.
The process could be seen as a generational struggle; old masters versus up-and-coming artists. The old masters created their masterpieces; the young artists copied the masters' formulas and techniques, at first imitating, but then transcending them, and finally becoming recognised masters themselves. In this way the canon was continually reborn and rewoven into the fabric of Chinese art.
The exhibition focuses on this characteristic practice in Chinese painting and calligraphy, using selected masterpieces from the East-Asian Collection of the Museum of Asian Art to illustrate this fascinating learning process.
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