If you have dropped by my site before you have likely learned (at least) two things about me. One, that I am a keen admirer of Asian literature and art. Two, that I have been learning ink painting for nearly two years now. Though I am learning in the Japanese style, ink painting’s origins go back to Chinese classical art. So when I had the chance to visit Taiwan recently, the National Palace Museum was at the top of my sightseeing list as a way to learn more about this art. I picked up a number of books on this trip, and am sharing one of them with you today: “Imperial Taste: The Beauty of Painting” published by the National Palace Museum. It is a neat little journey guide through all periods of classical Chinese ink painting. Here are some of the reasons why I recommend this volume:
- Portable. This book covers carefully selected masterpieces from the museum’s painting collection in a small soft cover format. At 170 pages, it is a fairly light volume which can be carried around everywhere, whether wandering a museum or tucked inside a small bag. The size takes nothing away from the pleasure, enough detail images are included to make up for the small-scale of the full painting reproductions.
- Insightful. The guide covers all major periods of classical Chinese painting from Sui (600 CE) to Qing (1900 CE) and concisely explains the main advances from one generation of painters to the next. It has some cleverly thought out features, such as the fold-out overview of works within period and category, or the overview of common mounting formats. Such features help the reader to quickly categorize works visually. The only distracting factor on my edition is that two images are pixellated and one happens to be the full image of Forest Chamber Grotto by Wang Meng (page 115).
- Inspiring. The collection and book selection are particularly strong in landscape painting, and this clearly shines through. It is breathtaking to see how much expression can be achieved with pure monochrome like in the Red Cliff by Wu Yuanzhi or Remote View of Streams and Hills by Xia Gui.
Are you also a fan or practitioner of ink painting? Which other books on this topic did you find inspiring? Add your thoughts on the comments section.
Below a link to the National Palace Museum’s e-shop page for the book, and a video about one of my favourite paintings featured in the book from the museum’s own YouTube channel (unfortunately not available in foreign languages):
Imperial Taste: The Beauty of Painting edited by Lin Jengyi at the museum’s e-shop
Watch Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring by Ma Yuan here