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Wumen Painting School Introduction


wumen painting school
Wumen Painting School

Wumen Painting School led by a group of historically influential scholarly talents in literature, painting, calligraphy and music represented by Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, Tang Bohu, Qiu Ying and Zhang Hong, was a top painting style in middle phase of Ming Dynasty. Due to majority of the representative painters born in or from Suzhou, this painting school was named historically The Wupai(吴派, Suzhou used to be the capital of Wu State in spring and autumn period, therefore, Chinese people called Suzhou Wu for short, especially in academic and literature circle)

The History of Wumen Painting School

In early Ming Dynasty when Wumen Painting School inattentively developed, there had been a group of famous painters in Suzhou and Wuxi, the centers of Jiangnan region, and the representatives were Du Qiong, Liu Jue, Chen Ruyan and Xu Ben. All of them were specialized in writing literary works and had a higher literary accomplishment. In painting, they inherited a tradition from Huang Gongwang(黄公望) and Wang Meng (王蒙), both of whom were the painting masters of Yuan Dynasty, and their painting themes were highlighted with the scholarly painting featuring the expression of personality. However, due to the great influence of royal paintings, theirs were not taken as an innovation. This tradition deeply influenced Shen Zhou, the founder of Wumen Painting School. Up to the middle phase of Ming Dynasty, painting appreciation became a part of people’s life, and the scholar’s painting was unprecedentedly valued by all walks of life. Roughly in the period from 1426 to 1435, Shen Zhou(沈周) started his great influence in Suzhou and became the founder of Wumen painting school, and his followers like Wen Zhengming, Tang Bohu and Qiu Ying succeeded a tradition from Song and Yuan Dynasties, and formed their own unique painting styles. And a refreshing look of Chinese painting expanded in China, and it gradually ranked the leadership instead of the Zhejiang Painting School and Royal Painting School. And this leading status in history of painting extended for over 150 years. Hence, in history of Chinese painting, four greatest contributors were honorably called Four Masters of Wumen(吴门四家), and naturally became the representatives of Wumen Painting School.

The Achievements of Wumen Painters

In mountains-waters painting, Wumen painters got great achievements, and they broke through the traditional concept from Song Dynasty. In figure paintings and flower paintings, except Qiu Ying, 3 others all paid a high attention to the integration of poems, calligraphy and painting, which directly upgraded the scholarly painting, and extended the influence of Wumen painting school to today. After the establishment of Wumen painting school, the students followed the styles for generations. Taking Wen Zhengming as an example, the number of his students and descendants following his style is over 30. In the later period of Wumen painting school, the representatives were Chen Chun, Lu Zhi, Qian Gu, Lu Shidao and Zhou Tianqiu. And many of them extended the innovation to the new arenas such as the flower paintings of Chen Chun, Flower-Bird Painting of Lu Zhi, and the thick mountains-waters painting of Xie Shichen and so on. The important painting schools of late Ming and early Qing Dynasties were influenced largely by Wumen Painting School, like Shanghai Painting School led by Dong Qichang(董其昌)

The Introductions of Wumen Painters

Shen Zhou Wen Zhengming Tang Bohu Qiu Ying Zhang Hong

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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