The primary tools of the traditional Chinese painter are black water-based ink and bamboo brushes with animal-hair tips. By controlling the density of ink and the movement, pressure, and speed of the brush, artists could interpret the world around them through a rich variety of textural effects. Whereas some brushstrokes are visually descriptive—wet, blurry washes that evoke mist or sharp, “axe-cut” strokes that capture the surface of steep cliffs—others, such as conspicuous dotting that lines hills and mountains, are purely aesthetic.
The six paintings included in this exhibition present a range of visual effects major artists of the 16th through the 18th century implemented through their brushwork. A work of precise draftsmanship and elegantly modeled details of nature constrasts with others that appear simply or naively executed—even slapdash—in their broad, wet washes and ostensibly scribbly definition of figures and their surroundings.