The Painter's Practice

The Painter's Practice: How Artists Lived and Worked in Traditional China

James Cahill
Copyright Date: 1994
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    The Painter's Practice
    Book Description:

    InThe Painter's Practice, James Cahill reveals the intricacies of the painter's life with respect to payment and patronage--an approach that is still largely absent from the study of East Asian art. Drawing upon such unofficial archival sources as diaries and letters, Cahill challenges the traditional image of the disinterested amateur scholar-artist, unconcerned with material rewards, that has been developed by China's literati, perpetuated in conventional biographies, and abetted by the artists themselves. His work fills in the hitherto unexplored social and economic contexts in which painters worked, revealing the details of how painters in China actually made their living from the sixteenth century onward. Considering the marketplace as well as the studio, Cahill reviews the practices and working conditions of artists outside the Imperial Court such as the employment of assistants and the use of sketchbooks and prints by earlier artists for sources of motifs. As loose, flamboyant brushwork came into vogue, Cahill argues, these highly imitable styles ironically facilitated the forger's task, flooding the market with copies, sometimes commissioned and signed by the artists themselves. In tracing the great shift from seeing the painting as a picture to a concentration on the painter's hand, Cahill challenges the archetype of the scholar-artist and provides an enlightened perspective that profoundly changes the way we interpret familiar paintings.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52200-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ONE Adjusting Our Image of the Chinese Artist
    (pp. 1-31)

    The Western vision of China has undergone striking changes in recent years; perhaps these changes can be summed up by saying that China has lost much of its mystique. Successive versions of China in the West over the centuries, despite ever-increasing knowledge, have all tended to have a somewhat idealized character: a land of philosophers and enlightened rule for eighteenth-century Europeans; a land of spirituality and mystery, often more than a little sinister, for the popular view from the late nineteenth through much of the twentieth century; the egalitarian, morally dedicated society that many of us wanted to believe in...

  5. TWO The Painter’s Livelihood
    (pp. 32-70)

    There are a few inescapable conditions for our investigation that should be acknowledged at the outset. The evidence we have for all the topics to be treated is scattered and anecdotal; I have tried, with only partial success, to avoid letting these essays take on the same character. But to argue general practice from individual cases raises other dangers: how far can one extrapolate from a series of records of separate events? There is no other way, however, to explore these or other practices that the Chinese writers never wrote about in any extended way. And we can be sure,...

  6. THREE The Painter’s Studio
    (pp. 71-112)

    The previous chapter outlined and illustrated the kinds of dealings that Chinese artists had with their clients, or patrons or sometimes simply friends who wanted a painting but who were nonetheless expected to do something for the artist in return, and how the client’s wishes were conveyed to the painter. It considered how go-betweens and agents were employed, and how the painter was rewarded for his work with money, gifts, or favors. This one will continue with the same themes, but with a shift of emphasis to the artist’s working conditions, including studios, use of assistants, the transmission of designs,...

  7. FOUR The Painter’s Hand
    (pp. 113-148)

    In China, as in the West, the idea that a painting derives its value in large part from its style, especially from its facture and “touch,” the marks of the artist’s brush-in-hand that make it up, appears relatively late in the history of the art as part of a larger complex of changes in the way paintings are experienced and appraised. The fundamental change is from the view of a painting as a picture, a view focused on the subject and on the effectiveness of the work as representation, to the view of a painting as an object for aesthetic...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 149-168)
  9. Bibliography (Works in English)
    (pp. 169-176)
  10. Illustrations
    (pp. 177-180)
  11. Index
    (pp. 181-192)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-194)