The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is presenting a rare exhibition of masterpieces of 17th century Ming Loyalist Art that will be on display until Jan. 2.
The exhibition features works that were collected during the 1950s and the 1960s by the late Hong Kong collector Ho Iu-kwong (He Yaoguang, 1907-2006), who named his studio the Chih Lo Lou or Hall of Supreme Bliss.
In the history of China, the 17th century is of great significance as this was the time when the powerful Ming dynasty (1368-1644) collapsed, leading to the conquest of the country by seminomadic Manchu tribesmen.
It is said that during this time there was an enormous outpouring of creative energy as many former Ming subjects turned to the arts to express their loyalty to the noble but doomed cause of Ming restoration and to assert their defiance and moral virtue.
Titled The Art of Dissent in 17th-Century China, the exhibition features some of the finest and most comprehensive private assemblages of the art of the Ming-Qing transition. Over 60 landscape paintings and calligraphies highlight the exhibition. They include works by Huang Daozhou, Hongren, Bada Shanren (Zhu Da), and Shitao.
The entire exhibition is segregated under five thematic or regional groupings: Ming Martyrs, The Yellow Mountain and Nanjing Regional Schools, Guangdong Artists, Monk Painters, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang Artists.
These creative artworks are projections of the Ming subjects' emotional responses to the often-harsh conditions under alien rule.
In transforming painting and calligraphy into vehicles for self-expression, the artists often demonstrated a remarkable independence from traditional styles and techniques. For this reason, they have been celebrated as visionary individualists whose styles remain influential even now.