Excerpt: ... that was established in the lovely southern city of
Hangchow. Painters of the Southern Sung dynasty, as this later era
came to be known, often were masters of both styles, sometimes
producing jagged Northern landscapes, sometimes misty Southern
vistas, or sometimes combining the two in a single painting. In
time, however, as the mood of the age grew increasingly romantic
and Ch'an Buddhism became more influential in academic circles, the
jagged brushstrokes of the Northern painters retreated farther and
farther into the mist, leaving the landscapes increasingly
metaphorical, with contorted trees and rugged, textured rocks. This
new lyrical style, which predominated in the last century of the
Sung painting academy, was primarily the creation of two artists,
Ma Yuan (active ca. 1190-1224) and Hsia Kuei (active ca.
1180-1230), whose works were to become the models for Ashikaga Zen
landscapes. They both experimented with asymmetry and the
deliberate juxtaposition of traditional landscape elements. Space
became an element in its own right, particularly in the works of Ma
Yuan, whose "one-corner" compositions were often virtually blank
save for a bottom corner. An eclectic stylist, he frequently
depicted the foreground in the ax-cut brushstrokes and sharp
diagonals of the North, while distant mountains in the same
painting were treated by the soft, graded washes of the South. Hsia
Kuei did much the same, except that he took a marked interest in
line and often painted foreground trees and rocks in sharp
silhouette. In later years, after the Ming dynasty came to power,
Chinese tastes reverted to a preference for the Northern style, but
in Japan the so-called Ma-Hsia lyric school was revered and copied
by Zen artists who found the subjective treatment of nature a
perfect expression of Zen doctrines concerning intuitive insight.
The Southern Sung academy did not deliberately produce Ch'an art;
it was the Japanese who identified the Ma-Hsia style...
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