Asia Society Museum Presents The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th Century China

ZHANG Feng, Immortals’ Secrets in a Stone Cave, 1658. Ink and color on paper.

Contact: Elaine Merguerian 212.327.9271, 

Exhibition on view in New York from March 6 through June 2, 2013

Asia Society presents a major exhibition of Chinese paintings that reveal the private world of the scholar-painters who lived during one of the most tumultuous periods of Chinese history—the end of the Ming dynasty (c. 1600–1644) and the early years of foreign conquest by the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty (1644–c.1700). Many of the paintings are exhibited for the first time in the United States and drawn from seven private collections and six public institutions in the U.S. and Taiwan, including the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Artful Recluse showcases some of China’s most celebrated artists who, following a time-honored tradition in Chinese culture, withdrew from the turbulent and public life of politics to seek solace in nature, art, and private companionship. Using landscape and the natural world as their symbolic subject matter these artists created brilliant and diverse commentary through art. Many of the paintings include poems and inscriptions that enhance the images with masterful calligraphy. During this time, there was a shift in how disengagement was viewed and expressed with many artists asserting a new sense of self through their art and poetry.

The exhibition is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where it premiered in fall 2012. Asia Society Museum is the only other venue for the exhibition. Susan Tai, Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and Peter Sturman, professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, organized the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. The 319-page catalogue is the first publication to explore in depth the theme of reclusion in painting and calligraphy within the broader context of political and social changes in the seventeenth century, and includes essays authored by leading scholars in the fields of art, literature, and history. At Asia Society, Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, is the in-house curator for the exhibition.

A pdf version of the press release is attached below. The Artful Recluse is part of China Close Up, Asia Society’s yearlong programmatic focus on China.