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Art of the Scholar-Poets: Traditional Chinese Painting and Calligraphy

April 01 to May 09, 1998

Marsh Art Gallery, University of Richmond Museums


Chinese culture developed one of the world's most enduring artistic traditions, literati painting, based upon a unique idea about the purposes of art. The art of the scholar-poets is centered in calligraphy and poetry, which the literati learned at an early age as part of their basic education. Painting was done with the same tools as poetry and calligraphy - brush, ink, and paper - and it was an easy step to express poetic sensibilities in visual as well as verbal form. Most literati, either government bureaucrats or teachers, were not dependent upon their art for their living which allowed them a freedom to express themselves in the arts without worries about commercial success.

The exhibition explores the Chinese literati tradition of expressing perceptions of nature and personal feelings through calligraphy, painting, and poetry from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries in the formats of hanging scrolls, fans, handscrolls, and albums, The works are arranged in the favored themes of the literati: bamboo, landscapes, figure, and calligraphy.

Organized by the Marsh Art Gallery, the exhibition was curated by Stephen Addiss, Tucker-Boatwright Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Art History, University of Richmond. The exhibition brochure essay, panels, and labels were developed by Dr. Addiss' students as part of an art history course on Chinese painting and calligraphy. The students were: Scott Allen, Sean Drummond, Ann Griffin, Mark Karau, Blythe King, Sarah Mendelson, John Nixon, Liz Rhymers, and Beth Rose. For help with translations, we would like to thank Jonathan Chaves (Wen Cheng-ming and Ch'eng Hsieh), Julia Curtis (brushpot), and Stephen Little (Hsiao Yung-ts'ung). Our thanks also go to the lenders to the exhibition.

The exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the Rouse-Bottom Foundation and the University of Richmond Cultural Affairs Committee.

Richard Waller
Director, Marsh Art Gallery
University of Richmond

Publication Date



University of Richmond Museums


Richmond, VA


tradition chinese art, chinese painting, calligraphy, Kung Hsien, Yang Pu, Cha Shih-piao, Cheng Hsieh, Wen Cheng-ming, bamboo, landscapes


Art and Design | Asian Art and Architecture | Fine Arts | Painting | Printmaking

Art of the Scholar-Poets: Traditional Chinese Painting and Calligraphy