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Plants and Flowers in Chinese Paintings and Ceramics
June 15–December 31, 2012

Plants and flowers have been an important part of the Chinese visual repertoire since ancient times. Whether in naturalistic or stylized forms, the representation of botanical subjects in the arts of China reflects a deep respect for the wonders of the natural world.

Two of the three handscroll paintings displayed provide a look at a range of wild and cultivated plants and flowers, and show how they form part of a larger ecosystem that includes other living things, such as insects, birds, and animals. Another handscroll depicts an expansive landscape unified with a blue-green palette portraying the mountains, and groves of blossoming peach trees that evoke a famous literary and artistic theme.

Throughout the long history of Chinese ceramics, floral subjects were commonly used for decoration, but the techniques used to depict floral motifs differed greatly. Often the designs are painted onto ceramic vessels before glazing and firing while at other times the design is incised onto the glaze before firing. In the case of a white Northern Song jar, the body of the vessel is applied with decoration resembling petals so that the entire object may be experienced as a flower in bloom.

Curated by Philip Hu, associate curator of Asian art, Plants and Flowers in Chinese Paintings and Ceramics will be on view through December 31, 2012 in Gallery 233. It is presented in conjunction with Missouri Botanical Garden's "Year of China" and marks the 25th year of work by the Garden on its important Flora of China publication project.

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