Collection Inspiration

The ‘Of Blue Mountains and Verdant Forests’ collection presents 8 looks inspired mainly by blue-green landscape paintings. Each digital print is inspired by foundational elements of the genre, including brushwork, poetry, calligraphy, and philosophy. 

An Intro to Chinese Landscape Paintings

Chinese landscape paintings is a genre of painting that depicts nature in the form of mountains and streams. The Chinese name for the genre “shan shui hua” translates literally to “mountain water painting.” Traditional landscape paintings are normally painted on scrolls made of silk or rice paper. The viewer is meant to look upon the landscape as a moving picture from one end of the scroll to the other as the scenery slowly unfolds.

Fairyland of Peach Blossoms, Qiu Ying (1494–1552), Ming Dynasty

In a landscape painting, you’ll notice that you can seldom locate a human figure. Only after a long moment of searching would you find a tiny figure nestled underneath a pine tree, who is glancing up at the rugged mountain peaks piercing through the clouds, or appreciating the rippled, winding rivers at their feet. It is a sanatorium that reminds us of the smallness of humans amongst the vastness of nature, and allows the sheer beauty of mountains and rivers to wipe away inconsequential worries from our minds. 

Therefore, landscape paintings are prized not only as the most popular category of Chinese art, but also as a psychological space in which artists engage in dialogues with nature. Chinese landscape paintings are never mere depictions of the external world, but rather natural expressions of the artist’s pursuit of freedom and solace in nature. 

The Colors of Chinese Landscape Paintings

Landscape paintings are either painted in color or black and white. Black and white or “ink wash” paintings have dominated the genre of Chinese landscape paintings since the Song Dynasty. However, from a historical development perspective, colored landscape paintings came before ink wash ones.  

One genre of colored landscape paintings is the  blue-green landscape painting, named for the resplendent blue and green colors used throughout the painting, which are accented with splashes of red, gold, and brown. These bright and luxurious pigments are traditionally  made from grounding rare gemstones such as malachite, azurite, lazurite, and ochre into powder. 

A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, Wang Ximeng (1096-1119), Northern Song Dynasty


The Genesis of Blue-green Landscape Paintings

In early landscape paintings, nature only served as a backdrop to the painting of humans. Landscape paintings weren’t established as an official genre of art until the 6th century when the depiction of mountains and rivers became the focus of the paintings, with the earliest surviving work being a blue-green landscape painting from the Sui Dynasty (581-618). This would kick off the development of the most influential category of Chinese art for thousands of years to come. 

Spring Excursion, Zhang Ziqian, Sui Dynasty (581–618)

In the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907), blue-green paintings matured into a distinct painting style, drawing influence from Buddhist art. Blue and green pigments and Buddhist art forms were made accessible through the Silk Road trade routes that stretched from the Mediterranean sea to China and directly influenced the formation of the blue-green landscape painting genre. The blue–green landscapes found in the murals of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, a treasure cove of Chinese Buddhist art located along the Silk Road, catalog the considerable development of this genre during the Tang Dynasty. 

Painting from Cave 103, the Mogao Grottoes, Tang Dynasty (618–907)

The Song Dynasty (960-1279) marked an important shift in mainstream aesthetics within landscape paintings. Ink wash paintings established a dominant position within the genre, with the technique and philosophy behind the monochrome style gaining more favor over its more colorful blue-green counterpart. 

From here on out, there were still significant works of blue-green landscape paintings made in subsequent dynasties by artists such as Zhao Boju, Qian Xuan, and Qiu Ying. Wang Ximeng’s A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, one of the most well-known blue-green landscape masterpieces, also came out of this period. However, on a whole, blue-green landscape paintings became more of a niche style and retreated to the background, until its revival in the modern era. 


A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, Wang Ximeng (1096-1119), Northern Song Dynasty

Dwelling in the Mountains, Qian Xuan (1235–1305), Yuan Dynasty 

Ode to the Red Cliff in Zhao Bosu’s Style, Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), Ming Dynasty

Fast forward to the era of modern Chinese art in the 20th century, blue-green landscapes saw another burst of creativity and innovation with the appearance of Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Zhang Daqian cemented his status as one of the best-known and best-selling artists of his era with his unique type of  'splashed color' landscape paintings, where he uses intense blue-green mineral pigments and broad, layered washes of ink to create emotive, abstract landscapes.  

Residing within Mountains, Zhang Daqian (1898-1983)

Despite being relegated to the background of landscape paintings over the centuries, the brilliance of blue-green landscape paintings leaves an indelible mark on those who have seen them. Our first collection is a tribute to the overflowing beauty and romanticism found among these mountains and rivers, layers of ink, and lustrous blue-green pigments that still remain resplendent after thousands of years. 

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