Nature between Poetry and Mimesis: Flowers and Birds in the Paintings of India and China

26.07.2016 to 08.01.2017
Museum für Asiatische Kunst

Flowers and birds are ubiquitous throughout Indian painting, which typically features rich colors. In the courtly art of the Mughal dynasty (16th–19th c.), they become independent subjects, not least as a result of European influences. In the poetic paintings of the time of the Qing dynasty (17th–20th c.), they are likewise central subjects. The palette of Chinese painters is generally more subdued and their tendency towards abstraction fundamentally distinguishes them from Mughal artists.

In the painting “Flowers and Birds” by Chein Zhidao, the flowers depicted are sweet olive (Lat. Osthmanus fragrans) and baby rose (Lat. Rosa multiflora). The style of painting suggests that the artist was influenced by Western oil painting, which can be traced to the fact that Chen Zhidao, as court painter during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736–1795), had the possibility to learn the oil painting techniques practiced by the Jesuit missionaries who also served at the court. 

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