In the painting of the first Ming period, two schools dominate the artistic scene: the first, Zhe, tends to be more academic, although very balanced, the second, Wu, expresses greater expressive vigor and creative freedom. The distinction in two schools, one of the North, the other of the South, will be codified towards the end of the 16th century. by the painter and theorist Dong Qichang. In the production of Jingdezhen porcelain, in addition to the best decorative and compositional results of the white and blue pieces, we also witness the creation of valuable polychrome decorations.
With the last Manchu dynasty of the Qing (1644-1912), painting had an intensely creative season between the 17th and 18th centuries, both through the work of ‘academic painters’, faithful to the secular tradition, and in the revolutionary scrolls of ‘individualists’ who achieved expressive results of surprising modernity.
In architecture, in the context of the tested traditional technical and formal solutions, weighed down in some cases by an ornamental and overabundant taste (Summer Palace, Yiheyuan; Lama Temple, Yonghegong; parts of the Forbidden City in Beijing), there are stylistically choices more essential, as in the imperial residences of Chengde (Hebei) and Shenyang (Liaoning), more in keeping with the Manchu tradition, alongside Tibetan echoes, given the adhesion of the Manchu court to Lamaist Buddhism (temples of Chengde, or the White Stupa of Beihai Park in Beijing). The adoption of an eminently European language is found in the ruins of Western-style buildings (Xiyanglou) in the imperial park Yuanmingyuan (The Garden of Perfect Splendor) in the NE of Beijing, commissioned to the Jesuit painter-architect Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), called in China (where he lived from 1715) Lang Shining. His paintings also testify to the attempted fusion of Chinese models with Western languages and techniques.
According to CANCERMATTERS.NET, the applied arts (carvings in semi-precious stones, lacquers, cloisonné enamels, textiles, bronzes) always knew in the 18th century. a resplendent flowering under imperial protection, while the production of porcelain, before the general decline of the arts in the 19th century, experienced the last great season thanks to the creativity of the potters of Jingdezhen, who made excellent ‘white and blue’, extraordinary polychrome (usually indicated in the West in the distinction between ‘families’, green, pink, black etc.) and monochrome; the factories in Dehua (Fujian) specialized in the so-called Blanc de Chine, while in Yixing (Jiangsu) the purple-colored stoneware was perfected.
The twentieth century and the beginning of the 21st century
From the beginning of the twentieth century, despite the collapse of a millenary political, social and cultural order with the advent of the republican model in 1912, a renewed creative fervor is perceived in painting and graphic arts, also fueled by more or less direct confrontation. with the most advanced western trends. Throughout the 20th century, most of the great masters of painting consciously and originally renewed the tradition. Other sensitive interpreters, painters and sculptors, moved more and more in the wake of the European avant-gardes, but there is no doubt the weight assumed by the influence of socialist realism, imposed with the People’s Republic in the third quarter of the century. Architecture too underwent a radical and profound transformation. To the grandiloquent gigantism of the works inspired by Soviet models,
In the last few years of the century, however, we have witnessed the research and experimentation of new languages, not only of Western inspiration but of propulsive intention in the context of a global market. The institutes responsible for the development of the arts (the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing or other cities) have been contrasted with new places of aggregation and comparison; exemplary is the case of the factory occupied in Beijing, called Factory 798 (Qijioba), an essential place for a new way of making art. For some time avant-garde groups (the first, Xingxing “The Stars”, dates back to 1979) and individual personalities have been offering installations, such as those by Cai Guo-Qiang, performance, video, body art. The increasingly consistent presence of Chinese artists at the major international exhibitions fits into this complex context.
In the field of architecture and urban planning, the race to westernization has started an immense construction work that has affected the main urban centers. Following the model of the re-acquired Hong Kong, in particular Shanghai, as an industrial and financial center, has had an extraordinary building development, often the result of projects by foreign architects. Many foreigners are also called to operate in other Chinese cities. Among the best known are: the French P. Andreu, author of the new Opera House in Beijing (1999-2003) and the sports complex built in Canton for the IX National Games (1998-2001); the German firm von Gerkan, Marg & Partners, responsible for the headquarters of the German school in Beijing (1998-2001); the Japanese Arata Isozaki (cultural center in Shenzhen, from 1997-2005) and Shin Takamatsu (National Museum of Tianjin, near Beijing, 2001, in collaboration with Mamoru Kawaguchi); the American of Chinese origin Ieoh Ming Pei (Cyber City in Shenzhen, an extensive technology park designed in collaboration with the Sherman Kung & Partners studio in Hong Kong, since 2001); the headquarters of the Chinese television CCTV of R. Koolhaas and OMA (2008) and a series of technologically and formally avant-garde buildings linked to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (the Water Cube swimming pool complex, designed by the Australian firm PTW Architects; the National Olympic Stadium of Herzog and de Meuron etc.).