History of Chinese Hand Scroll Paintings- Ancient Chinese Hand Scroll Artists

Returning From a Visit- Hand Scroll by Zhu Derun


Hand scroll paintings are small paintings that were done in China. Like other scrolls, these works could be rolled out to allow the artwork on the inside to be viewed easily. They could also be rolled up and transported from one area to another.

Night Revels- Gu Hongzhong


Examples of Hand Scroll Paintings

Chinese hand scroll paintings were popular during the Song dynasty. One of the most well known examples of work done in this style is The Night Revels of Han Xizai. Another well known painting from China that is done on a hand scroll is Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

Structure of Hand Scroll Paintings

Ancient Chinese hand scroll artists told their story using a format that can be thought of as a stretched landscape view. Their paintings were enjoyed piece by piece. As the scroll was unrolled slowly, each new segment would be displayed for the enjoyment of the individuals who held the object.

Viewers would look at every detail in the work. The story that was told in this type of painting was told in stages, although each element helped to form a complete picture when the scroll was unrolled completely.

Advantages of Hand Scroll Painting

Completing a painting on a hand scroll allowed Ancient Chinese artists to slow down the pace at which viewers moved through the painting. They could draw the viewer’s attention to what they wanted to first.

Since they were small in comparison to other types of artwork, the paintings provided a one on one experience with art. Someone could sit with a few friends around them and look at a painting.

The site of these paintings also made it easier to share a favorite with someone else. They were not bulky like installations or some of the larger pieces that are favored in other types of art.

Chinese hand scroll art is as famous as the following artists and media:

Yuan and Song Dynasty Hand Scroll Themes

Hand scroll artists favored different topics. Some looked at the politics of the day while others examined nature and their physical surroundings. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, as the name suggests, is a nature piece. The artwork contains brush and ink renderings of tees, houses and hills.

The Night Revels of Han Xizai is a commentary on corrupt politicians of the time. It highlights some of the failings of the leaders, including their sexual indiscretions.

Popular Chinese Hand Scroll Artists

The National Museum at Taipei and the Palace Museum in Beijing house the work of well known hand scroll artists. You can see work by Huang Gongwang and Gu Hongzhong.

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