Flowers in Chinese Art

June 27, 2015 - December 9, 2015

Flowers are revered in traditional Chinese culture. A floral motif is a way by which a mood, a season, a sentiment, or a desire is conveyed. Flowers in Chinese art symbolize everything from celebration days, specific months and seasons to virtuous characteristics, and even death. Flowers are not always depicted realistically, or in their natural setting, as artists seek to communicate a particular message through symbolism and allegory.

Floral motifs were not prevalent in the art of Chinese antiquity, but came with the expansion of Buddhism into China via the Silk Road in the first and second century CE. By the time of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), floral motifs were quite common. As with many things favored by royalty and the ruling class, the trends and styles quickly spread among the people, and flower motifs became more and more popular throughout the dynasties that followed.

The range of painting styles displayed is remarkable, from delicate rosebuds to expressive morning glories, sometimes paired with nimble grasshoppers, timid songbirds, or an imperious duck.

This exhibition features 35 Chinese paintings and ceramics from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and on loan from the collection of Joy and Timothy Light.