A surprising number of Chinese paintings include architecture. More surprising, the architecture often has little to do with the painting. Why is it present?
This presentation begins with a brief overview of jiehua (ruled line) painting, works made with measuring devices to aid in the painting of buildings. We see that architecture frames action, divides action, is a focus amid landscape, and sometimes is the subject of painting on a variety of media. We also see that these uses of architecture occur in secular and religious painting as early as the Han dynasty (206 BCE – CE 220) and continue through the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when they are found in masterpieces of Chinese painting such as Wang Hui’s (1632-1717) “Kangxi Emperor’s Inspection Tour” and Xu Yang’s “Qianlong Inspection Tour” of the 18th century in the Mactaggart Art Collection.
The presentation proposes that architecture in painting imposes an order, and in certain paintings, an imperial order to the environment of the work of art, and further, that the role of architecture in painting is similar to the purpose of three-dimensional architecture of full and small-scale.