Sunday, June 12, 2011

Seasons: Chinese Landscapes

Where: Freer Gallery of Art

When: through June 12, 2011

The Freer is holding a year-long series of exhibits highlighting the importance of the seasons in Chinese and Japanese art. This offering shows the seasons as portrayed in Chinese landscape paintings. Most of the pieces show the life of Chinese scholar-gentlemen, who spent their lives in reading and contemplation. Nice work, if you can get it! The artists use the seasons to reflect a mood or emotion; while spring and summer scenes show more outward activities (visiting other scholars, for example), fall and winter scenes evoke more solitary pursuits.

The day I went to see this show was a real scorcher, over 100 degrees, so I was envious of the men in "Escaping Summer Heat in the Shade of Pines," a painting of various scholars taking their ease. Several of the paintings were originally fans that had been mounted as album leaves.

Interestingly enough, the Chinese would often display paintings of winter in the summertime, the idea being that it would cause the viewer to feel cooler. I think my feeling cooler in the exhibit was probably due to the Freer's admirable air conditioning system, but I appreciate the effort. They would do the reverse in winter, and put up paintings of summer scenes. Can't hurt, might help, I suppose.

"Autumn Mountains, Layered Green" contained a poem with the line, "Rising he arrays his books reading them till sunset." I could have that kind of day much more often than I do. Overall, this was not a terribly colorful exhibit, but I did like the blues and greens in "Traveling at Dawn in the Snowy Foothills," a scroll displayed in the middle of the show.

Verdict: Well worth seeing, if you can go today! I was out of town for a week, and just managed to see this exhibit before it closed. If you miss this, there are several other shows in the "Seasons" series.

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