SBMA Exhibit Looks at Painting, Poetry and Politics in 17th Century China

Posted on Oct 22 by SEASONS Magazine

SHEN Shichong, Landscape (detail), 1631. Handscroll ink and color on paper. Private collection.

Curator Susan Tai gave  us a great sneak peek at The Artful Recluse,  Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s terrific new exhibit focused on painting, poetry and politics in 17th Century China. On view through January 20, this major exhibition of nearly 60 paintings studies the private world and inner lives of scholar painters during the end of the Ming Dynasty through the early years of the Qing Dynasty.

“It is a time-honored tradition for Chinese gentry to withdraw from public life and politics and seek solace in nature and art,” explains Tai. This period of reclusion also gave the artists time to socialize with other painters and poets and the exhibit also examines these relationships.

“Chinese paintings always look like an idealized world,” she says, but with this exhibition “we are trying to explore the meaning of the paintings much more than the stylistic elements.” The project started out as a UCSB seminar that Tai did with co-curator Peter Sturman, professor of history of art and architecture at UCSB. “It really grew from there,” says Tai.

Fourteen spectacular hand scrolls are on display and in a creative use of technology, several of these scrolls (some of which are up to 40-feet-long) have been scanned into iPads so they can be viewed and studied in their entirety.

Many of the paintings are exhibited for the first time in the United States, including a 20-foot-long masterpiece from the National Palace Museum Taiwan (Republic of China). Drawn from six public institutions, as well as SBMA, and seven private collections, the exhibition will only be seen in two venues: SBMA and the Asia Society in New York.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located at 1130 State St. The museum is open Tuesday—Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Chase Free Thursday Evenings from 5–8 p.m.

—Leslie Dinaberg



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