Saturday, July 8, 2017

Xiao and Xiang Rivers by Dong Yuan - Blogging Through the Alphabet

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Xiao and Xiang Rivers by Dong Yuan - Blogging Through the Alphabet on Homeschool Coffee Break @

So for the doubters who wondered if I'd skipped the letter X in this series, I want you to know that I had something picked out a long time ago. But life got too busy and I didn't get the post written so I've once again combined letters. (I do not, however, have a plan for the letter Z so next week should be a challenge!)

You may not be familiar with the title of the painting I'm featuring today, or the name of the artist, but you probably are familiar with the style and and the influence. Xiao and Xiang Rivers is an ink painting on silk by artist Dong Yuan, completed in the 10th century in the Kingdom of Southern Tang, China.

Xiao and Xiang rivers
Xiao and Xiang Rivers, Dong Yuan

This landscape is one of Dong Yuan's best known masterpieces, demonstrating his technique and sense of composition. It shows clouds over the line of mountains, and an inlet in the foreground that makes use of space to give the painting perspective and a peaceful feel. He used an unusual brush stroke technique to portray the foliage on the trees, and this was later copied in many other paintings. The style is very similar to pointillism - centuries before that technique became popular in Europe. The influence of Dong Yuan's landscape paintings, and those of many other Chinese artists was felt many centuries later. European and American artists began visiting China in the 1700s and 1800s, and they were awed by the talent of Chinese artists and the beauty of these works of art.

Dong Yuan rivers detail
detail from Xiao and Xiang Rivers by Dong Yuan

Little is known about the artist himself. (By the way, since it's a Chinese name, Dong is actually the family name even though it appears first.) He was born in 934 AD in Nanjing, which was a center for culture and the arts. He grew up like most Chinese boys in that time, learning to read and write in characters and studying the art of warfare. Although his peers would have wanted to become warriors for the Mandarin or follow their fathers into trade, Yuan wanted to paint and draw. He noticed colors, shapes, and designs in nature, and wanted to capture scenes on silk so that others could see this beauty as well. As an adult, he traveled to many parts of China, and studied with other artists. He created his art during the 900s, in the Five Dynasties period, between the Tang and Song dynasties. He became well known for his figure and landscape paintings, and the elegant style of brush painting which would become the standard for Chinese paintings for the next 900 years!

Dong Yuan. Wintry Groves and Layered Banks ca. 950 (181,5x116,5cm) Kurokava Inst. Hyogo
Wintry Groves and Layered Banks by Dong Yuan

If you want to learn more about Dong Yuan and his painting, check out the Everyday Easels lesson plans at

Everyday Easels art lessons at

This post is linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet hosted by A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool. Join in to see what others are sharing related to this week's letter!

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