nanga 南画
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. Southern painting. An abbreviation of *nanshuuga 南宗画, which refers to painting of the Southern school in China. Nanga is often used synonymously with *bunjinga 文人画 to describe the painting tradition inspired by Chinese literati painting that flourished in Japan during the 18c and 19c. While scholars tend to prefer one or the other, neither term is the exact equivalent of its Chinese counterpart. To begin with, Japanese bunjin artists were not members of the scholar-gentry class, but came from varying social backgrounds. Bound together by shared interests in literati culture, they formed societies and study groups, devoting themselves to learning to read Chinese, composing poetry in Chinese, and painting in Chinese styles. However, while artists learned by copying Chinese paintings and illustrations in woodblock printed manuals, Japanese nanga is stylistically quite different from Chinese literati painting. There is greater diversity of subject matter and style, due in part to the fact that models included professional paintings (Northern style or *hokushuuga 北宗画) as well as literati paintings (Southern style). The Japanese did not feel bound to follow established Chinese traditions and felt more free to improvise. This, coupled with native preferences, resulted in paintings with bold compositional designs, free brushwork, and a playful spirit,qualities not usually found in classical Chinese literati painting. While the starting point was the Chinese literati tradition or Southern school, in Japan nanga was more broadly interpreted and it embraced more than strictly Chinese literati styles.


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