Chinese vs. Western Art: What is the Difference?

Western and eastern paintings have many differences in techniques, style of writing, painting materials, and artistic languages. Several complex factors, including the histories and philosophies of the involved artists, also play part in the development of artistic traditions. In the case of Chinese and western art, differences are evident in the composition, medium, perspective, and tone.

Even though Chinese art was mostly intended to represent an expression of landscape or scene, western art, including from the early development, was more intended in developing accuracy. The differences likely originated from the different philosophies, which dominated the artistic cultures when developing. Chinese art was highly influenced by Buddhism and Taoism and it was more interested in finding eternal expressions in art.

On the other hand, western art was more influenced by Christian philosophy and attempted to represent landscapes and scenes accurately as the mirror of the nature of God. Later, the two forms of art changed and developed. That highly depended on the cultural exchange of techniques and ideas and what was important in the artistic culture.

A Quick Introduction to the Chinese Paintings

To make most of the traditional Chinese paintings, the Chinese artists dipped brushes in pigments and painted paper or silk. They then hanged their finished work or kept it as scrolls. The paintings, like those in the collection of John Dodelande, were also used on walls, lacquer-ware, and porcelain.

Chinese artists, from Han to the Tang dynasties, developed unique portraits of courts that showed emperors and the royal lifestyle. However, artists of that error also started shifting to landscape painting, which dominated traditional Chinese art later. The effects of Buddhism and Confucianism, which aimed at demonstrating the harmony between humans and nature, were strong.For that reason, artists focused more on personal feelings and emotions when painting landscapes.

The dominance of landscape painting led to the development of many Chinese symbols, including clouds, water, rocks, trees, and people. The artists rarely included shades or colors to show elements of the landscape, such as daytime or nighttime after using the symbols. They would only use symbols like the moon to show that it was nighttime.

Chinese Art vs. the Western Art

Now that you know how Chinese art has evolved, let us see how it compares to western art.

  • Representational vs. Expressive Art: The Chinese art depicted nature and it took a unique, imaginative, and expressive method to show what people saw in nature. This is concerning the Taoist principle of living harmoniously with nature. Contrarily, the western perspectives took a fixed approach to develop a realism sense – more like a photo representation.
  • Fixed vs. Dynamic Perspectives: Most traditional Chinese paintings used dynamic perspectives, which allowed the viewers to get a better sense of movement without the need of including realism. The western perspectives on the other hand took more fixed approaches to develop a sense of realism. The artists had to create paintings that were close to real images.
  • Minimalism vs. Shading: Traditional Chinese artists painted with brushstrokes. Therefore, they generated minimalist outlooks and personal feelings. Speaking of the western artists, they heavily relied on technical brushstrokes, which helped them furnish the shading of every item they painted.

As this post has demonstrated, Chinese art differs from western art in various ways. However, the underlying philosophy is the key determining factor in the two forms of art. Leading Chinese artworks from top collectors like John Dodelande will help you identify more differences.