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China was ruled by Mongols in the Yuan Dynasty. Han people were made the lowest of all tribes. The Imperial Academy system was demolished. The scholars and official of the Song dynasties escaped from the cruel Mongols and retired from public life. Therefore, landscape paintings developed well. An art office which painted the temples appeared. Art spread among civilians. As their lives were bitter, they studied Buddhism.
The combination of painting, poem and calligraphy became the major feature of scholar paintings. There was a popular saying, "In a poem, there is a painting; In a painting, there is a poem." > click the picture to see more.
Lives under the rule of Mongols were uneasy. Han people were unfairly treated because of their intelligence. Their grief was often expressed through their paintings Han artists focused on scenes that convey ideas.
The major style of traditional landscape paintings were called the "Li Guo faction". " Li" stands for Li Cheng, who created this style; "Guo" stands for Guo Ki, who further developed this style. This style was renewed by Yuan's landscape painters. Sometimes, the melancholic and implicit feeling was kept, but different elements were added by different artists. For example, some artists painted hills of strange shapes and deserted river valleys of Northern China to express how life forms and tries to survive under unfavorable conditions and the majestic beauty of desolation.
In the Yuan dynasty, most paintings used only simple, light colors. There was a type of landscape painting called the light reddish landscape. It was finished in light brown.
Four masters of the Yuan
Dong Qi Chuang of late Ming Dynasty picked out some important artists of the Yuan dynasty and named them the four masters of the Yuan. They are Huang Gong Wang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan, and Wang Meng.
He was the painter with the best spirit of creativity and most significant impact in the development of the Yuan dynasty;s landscape paintings. Huang was born into the Lu family in Chang Shou of the Jiang Su province, but he later became the son of the Wang family in Wen Zhou of the Zhe Gang province, and grew up there. He was very intelligent when he was young that he once went to the public exam of wander kind. In his 40s, he converted to the Quan Zhen faction of Taoism and became a hermit near XiHu of the Hang Zhou province. He wrote the "Xie Shan Shui Jue" (Writing about the artifice landscape). It consists of notes that he took. He created many different landscape painting techniques, which has brought long- term influences on other landscape painters in the following hundreds of years. He was the first artist ever able to paint half- extemporarily and was very successful. By using both dark and light ink, dry and wet brush, he created paintings of high 3 dimensions. His paintings formed the base of the style of the legitimate faction in early Qing dynasty. > This picture is one of Huang's works.
Ni Zan ( 1301 ~1374 )
He was born into a rich family in Wu Xi of Gang u province. He lived leisurely and contentedly enjoying calligraphy and painting before he was middle- aged. He had mysophobia. However, there was a twist in his life in 1330s. Because of many reasons, the peasants started revolutions everywhere. Ni Zan and his family lived a ragrant life for twenty years. For most of the days, they lived on a boat, or they lived with their friends. He often painted them in his pictures. After the Mind dynasty was established, he was no longer homeless, but his wife had died and his sons were gone. At last, he returned to Wu Xi and died sickness. His paintings were simple and insipid in ink or light colors. No human figures are painted in most of his paintings, (only one in his early paintings) and it shows that he hankered simple and peaceful life. Like many Yuan paintings, the prosaic scenes in his paintings often carry a deep meaning behind.
He was Zhao Meng Fu's grandson. He has been a government official in 13330s, but he quited and became a hermit on Huang He Shan ("Yellow Crane Hill") after revolutions were started. He called himself "Huan He Shan Qiao" (Yellow Crane Hill woodman). Later, he has lived in Su Zhou for a few years, and became famous among the poets and painters. After the Ming dynasty was established, he became an official again. Unfortunately, emperor Zhu Yuan Zhang did not trust educated people because he was not well educated and therefore dispised himself. Wang's friend, a prime minister was innocently condemned for rebellion. Wang was implicated and put in jail. He later died in jail. Different from Ni Zan, Wang Meng densely covered the whole painting with layers of mountains. It gives an unsteady and uncomfortable feeling. At the same time, it brings the view into many connected and well- organized interspace. >click the picture to see more.
Zhao Meng Fu was one of the four masters of the Yuan at first, but he was unfairly substituted by Wu Zhen. He was a descendent of Song's imperial clan. When he became a government official, he tried his best to help Han people. In spite of his high position later on, he had always wanted to retire from public life. This was reflected in his artworks, especially his landscape paintings.
he was a real hermit. He was knowledgeable and had high accomplishment mastery, but he has never wanted to be an official nor travel around. He has only been to Hang Zhou for a few times and made a living through sales of paintings and fortune telling. He was said to be an unsociable person. His paintings have never been proscribed . This proves that he was aloof. He started to become famous when Ming dynasty's artists learnt and appreciated his artworks. He was good at painting landscape and bamboo. He liked to include a fisherman in his landscape paintings. It gives an "insipid" or "implicit" feeling. > click the picture to see more.
Other then landscape paintings, he painted pictures with other contents: Religions and figure paintings, flower and bird paintings, a painting of goats and sheep, etc. He liked painting horses since he was young. When he became an official, he concentrated in it and was famous for it in the courts. However, he was not an imperial artist.