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Arts of the Ming Dynasty: China's Age of Brilliance

January 23–September 13, 2009

Literati Artists

While professional painters followed the representational tradition of the Song dynasty, literati artists developed the calligraphic idiom of Yuan dynasty scholar-amateurs. After the fifteenth century, there was a decline in imperial patronage, and both literati and professional artists, as well as craftsmen in other media, began to seek private support from prosperous merchants. Living Aloft: Master Liu's Retreat, created in 1543 by Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), epitomizes the refined way of life idealized by the scholarly class. The painting shows two friends engaged in conversation in a garden pavilion that is protected from the "dusty world" of politics by a stream, a walled compound, and a grove of evergreens.