Discourse on Painting

Fa Ruozhen Chinese

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 213

Fa Ruozhen served as a government official during the Ming dynasty; after the fall of the Ming, he broke with his compatriots, many of whom remained loyal to the defeated dynasty, to serve in the newly established Qing government. This handscroll, which he titled Discourse on Painting, is not a technical treatise but rather a reflective essay on what sort of person should pursue the art of painting. The highest good, says Fa, is to pursue service to society through government. If, however, one is unskilled in practical affairs, one should then study the classics; only if one fails at that should one pursue the life of a painter. Fa knew of what he wrote: he not only served in government but also painted.

Discourse on Painting, Fa Ruozhen (Chinese, 1613–1696), Handscroll; ink on paper, China

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