Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation in East Asian Art

This Exhibition Has Ended

January 23, 2016
June 12, 2016
In the Moak, Class of 1953, and Schaenen Galleries

The long history of interaction between China, Korea, and Japan formed an identifiable East Asian cultural sphere based on shared traditions of Confucian ethical philosophy, Buddhism, and a historically common writing system. In the arts this commingling resulted in new hybrid forms, as pictorial images and classical texts that originated in China were embraced as richly meaningful icons in Korea and Japan. While many images and artistic styles across the region show similarities to their Chinese models, local philosophical, historical, and aesthetic traditions transformed them in unique ways.

Through works of art from the Johnson’s collection, this exhibition focuses on the ink painting tradition and explores how cultural images and artistic styles that originated in China were adopted and adapted in Korea and Japan. Narrative subject matter based on literature, poetry, and legends celebrate the famous Chinese poets, scholars, and monks who came to be seen as paragons of morality and self-cultivation throughout East Asia. Likewise, bamboo, pine, plum, chrysanthemum, and orchid—symbolic of the scholarly virtues expected of the educated elite—were widely embraced as fundamental themes in the practice of calligraphy and painting. Chinese approaches to the depiction of mountain landscapes as scholarly retreats that embody the harmonious relationship of humans with nature were also reflected in the paintings created by literati artists in Korea and Japan.

This exhibition was curated by Yuhua Ding, Cornell PhD student, under the supervision of Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Johnson Museum.