Whatever merit this brief survey of Chinese painting may have is due to the fact that it is the work of a lover of art. It is concerned primarily with the paintings themselves, their artistic qualities, and their stylistic changes, less with the criteria of authorship, with the literary sources and the inscriptions, and least with religion, philosophy and history, the domain of Sinology. Not, of course, that these are wholly neglected, for, obviously, they are of vital importance for a full understanding of the development of art, which is inseparably linked up with the spiritual attitude of the different periods. Our method of approach is perhaps not inappropriate to showing the subject in a somewhat new light, more especially since previous works, valuable and praiseworthy as they are, have often accorded first place to the old literature and to the cultural background. Whoever is interested in the careers of the painters and in the charming yet sometimes rather stereotyped anecdotes which surround their lives, may turn to the series of excellent publications named in the Bibliography.
A deep affection for the Chinese spirit in general, and particularly for the Chinese language of the brush, has encouraged the present writer to make this venture--and a venture any account of Chinese painting cannot but be. Affection has its roots in experience, and such experience as the writer may claim he has had in a long and serious study of the treasures of Chinese pictorial art in many of the private and museum collections of China, Japan, the United States and Europe; to say nothing of the special exhibitions in Peking, Tōkyō, Kyōto, Berlin, Stockholm and London.
As for the translations and interpretations of the Chinese texts, the present writer, fully sensible of his incompetence in this field, would hesitate to encroach upon the achievements of the recognized scholars of Sinology; and so he has again and again turned to them for information and guidance. Controversies among Sinologues, though very frequent, only seldom affect the sphere of interest of the art historian. Whenever misunderstandings concerning art problems arise, they may as a rule be settled without serious difficulty.
Although painting, the most refined realization of Chinese creative power, is more closely integrated with the life of the Chinese people than it is in the Western world, the history of artists and art literature has been surprisingly similar to our own. China, with Japan--which has been largely dependent on China in the province of art--is the only non- European country where this parallel is to be found. Thus she offers a fruitful field for comparative studies, which are in all circumstances profitable for an understanding of art and art history. Such questions are only occasionally touched upon here. It is to be hoped that students of art will devote more attention to this task than they have hitherto done.
According to Chinese custom, painters use not one name only but several. Here, usually, those names are given by which they are most widely known. In the case of private collections we seldom take account of the collectors, as art treasures change their owners very often, and more than ever in these days.
To many readers the text may seem to be somewhat overloaded with Chinese names and words. It must, however, be borne in mind that we are dealing with the art development of . . .