Ning Yeh - Lotus I Ensor - Effect of Light
The Impressionists made a cult of Far Eastern art, and then imitated it. They adopted what they saw as the Chinese and the Japanese aesthetics even more than did their Romantic ancestors. They saw the "Oriental" as a more authentic man, looking at the world through eyes unjaded by Western industrialism. Their theoreticians were even more extreme in assigning Western and Eastern art to two different world-views, the "conceptual" and the "perceptual":
[T]he Greeks returned to an intensely conceptualised symbolism.... The art of China, and still more of Japan, has been distinctly more perceptual. Indeed, the Japanese drawings of birds and animals approach more nearly than that of any civilised people to the immediacy and rapidity of Bushman and Paleolithic art.... It is partly due to Japanese influence that our own Impressionists have made an attempt to get back to that ultra-primitive directness of vision.
And we are still living with that dichotomy.
So what a pity it is that it is all based on a mistake, and sometimes on a lie. There is no genuine "immediacy", no "directness of vision", in Oriental art of the last few hundred years. Oriental impressionism resulted from the stenuous efforts of the Song aristocracy to show that they were amateurs creating art quickly and casually. They weren't the lowly craftsman who made ritual images for the common people, craftsmen who had to work for a living, something a gentleman never does.
And we Westerners swallowed it lock, stock, and barrel. It wasn't until the last few years that one could even find such objects as the traditional, rigid, precise funerary images in the catalogs of the art dealers.
Unknown Chinese Artist - Ancestor Portrait
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