Page from the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

Illustrated by Wang Gai Chinese

Not on view

In 1679, publishers Shen Xinyu and Li Yu printed the first edition of the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. Produced in five volumes, it included sections on technique, trees, rocks, figures, and reproductions of works by famous painters. Nanjing painter Wang Gai was chosen to illustrate the book, and he did so by adapting a painting primer from an earlier artist. For an aspiring painter without access to a collection of their own, the Mustard Seed Manual and others like it were invaluable resources, as they offered a glimpse into the elite training available to painters of privilege. While numerous painting manuals found favor in China, Korea, and Japan, none had so great an impact as the Mustard Seed Manual, which was widely reproduced and disseminated.

Page from the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, Illustrated by Wang Gai (Chinese, 1645–1710), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, China

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