A Brief History
Chinese Shan Shui, c.1100 CE, Boxer Briefs
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Shan Shui paintings are traditional Chinese artwork that feature an idealized view of mountains, water, landscape, and other forms of nature. Shan Shui (translated literally as “mountain water picture”) paintings served as spiritual food for those yearning for a closer connection to nature. The frazzled city-dweller could get refreshed from an imaginary visit to the peaceful setting of a Shan Shui painting.
The Shan Shui artist worked with brush and ink in a loose style that captured the essence of the scene. It was more important to convey feelings in Shan Shui than to document an exact rendering of a view.
Text and seals on the painting often described the provenance of the work and commentary by the original artist or subsequent owners. The practice of writing directly on the original piece of art was considered an acceptable way to enhance the emotion of the piece.