Cultivated Landscapes: Chinese Paintings from the Collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill

Hearn, Maxwell K. (2002)

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Cultivated Landscapes: Reflections of Nature in Chinese Painting with Selections from the Collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill

In no other cultural tradition has landscape played a more important role in the arts than in that of China. This exhibition, consisting of more than seventy-five works drawn largely from the Museum's holdings and featuring selections from the renowned collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill, explores the manifold uses of natural imagery in Chinese painting as a reflection of human beliefs and emotions. The exhibition begins in the tenth century, when landscape painting became an independent genre in China and images of life in reclusion took on a new immediacy as members of society dreamed of finding sanctuary from a disintegrating social order following the collapse of the Tang dynasty. It then moves through the next millennium of Chinese painting, revealing how select flowers and plants may symbolize moral virtues; landscapes celebrating the natural order might laud the well-governed state; wilderness hermitages can suggest political isolation or protest; and gardens may be emblems of an ideal world. One gallery in the exhibition is devoted to paintings given or promised to the Metropolitan Museum by New York collectors Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill and presents major works by masters of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Complementing the display of paintings is a choice group of objects that celebrate landscape and garden imagery in other media. Of special note is a splendid twelve-panel lacquer screen that depicts a garden scene in brilliant colors.