Escapism Through the Landscape: The Evolution of Chinese Landscape Painting

This presentation is a report of an art historical analysis on Chinese Landscape Painting with emphasis given to iconographic analysis. The purpose of the research was to determine how Chinese Landscape Painting has evolved since its inception by viewing works from different periods in Chinese history. In examining these works, it became possible to determine a pattern among the works: the artists utilize escapist imagery to express the desire to leave their current lives in favor of finding peace among natural scenes. Whether it is the rulers of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties or the Cultural Revolution instituted by Mao Zedong, I have determined that one function of Chinese Landscape Painting is to allow the artist a level of escapism to mask the deeper stress and tension that pervaded their daily lives.

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  • Paper Presentation
  • Art History
  • This presentation examines the ways in which some Chinese landscape painting techniques informed the techniques of contemporary Chinese landscape painters. The works being discussed relate to escapism with Chinese history serving as the context for the discussion.

4 thoughts on “Escapism Through the Landscape: The Evolution of Chinese Landscape Painting”

  1. I really enjoyed your presentation, Brandon! Reclusion in Chinese art is a fascinating topic, and I found your personal take on it very interesting. I would be curious to know what sources you found most useful in your research. Congratulations on your presentation!


    Wow! this was such an informative presentation. I have never been to China, but the photographs that you shared to represent their landscape art are so beautiful. I can feel the peaceful energy through the photos themselves. One of my favorite photos that you shared in this presentation is “Dwelling Amid Waters and Forests” by Fu Baoshi, 1932. I love the little hut within the forest right beneath a huge flowing waterfall. If I could place myself in the picture the calming sound of the waterfall would create that peaceful mindset for me. I also like Boashi’s idea to include red in his later artwork, especially the one with the red sun! It was really cool how they created texture to their paintings as well with techniques in paintings such as “Europe After the Rain”. Throughout this presentation you have definitely captured the beauty of China’s natural settings through the artwork that represents their desire to live in peace and solitude. Again what a wonderful presentation I loved the unique topic you chose to research and present!
    Caitlin Tyree

  3. Dr. Bordeau,
    Thank you for the kind words and interest! I started this research with the work of James C. Cahill. Specifically his work “Three Alternative Histories of Chinese Painting” discusses several functions of landscape art. For my focus, I chose reclusion, but he has several other functions. Art museum websites like the MET have helpful resources for finding more about specific works from this presentation as well. Perhaps the most impactful source was “The Art of Mu Xin: Landscape Paintings and Prison Notes” which exhibits the notes, some of which I quoted in this presentation as well as the complete collection of “Tower within a Tower.” If you are interested in Mu Xin’s work specifically, a copy of this book is actually available in FLITE.

  4. Caitlin,
    Thank you for the kind words! After my trip to China, it became very apparent to me that certain aspects of Chinese culture are neglected including their art. Taking a class on landscape art really cements the differences in how a culture can represent landscapes and I wanted to take the opportunity to shed more light on how it was done in China. I am glad that the work of Fu Baoshi stood out to you! If you get the chance, some of his work can be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art, so you can find works like “Heaven and Earth Glowing Red” among other Chinese landscapes. It is a very different experience to see them in person.

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