Collecting Guide: 7 things to know about Chinese traditional painting
Specialist Elizabeth Hammer on why age-old themes and techniques continue to flourish — with works offered in our Fine Chinese Paintings sale on 13 September at Christie’s New York
There is room for confusion over the category known as Chinese traditional painting. The works in this field range from classical paintings that predate the 20th century through to contemporary paintings, all of which employ in some way age-old themes, materials and techniques.
Artists use ink and water-based colour on paper or silk to create traditional tableaus, most often depicting landscapes. Additionally, the themes are rarely unique, but are variations of earlier compositions, continuing a solid historical thread. The differences are in the details.
‘There is a very strong relationship between what comes later and what goes before in Chinese traditional painting,’ says Elizabeth Hammer, head of sale of Chinese Classical and Modern Paintings at Christie’s New York.‘There’s an idea that if you launch out without knowing thoroughly what came before you, you have no foundation,’ explains Hammer. ‘Traditional painting has a much stronger connection with the past than it does to global art trends.’
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