+This richly illustrated volume documents the art and fully examines the career of the sixteenth-century Chinese master T'ang Yin. One of the four great painters of the middle Ming period, the ambitious T'ang Yin rose above the merchant class into which he was born to become a member of the elite scholarly circle in the city of Suchou. Deprived by accident of his academic degrees and so forced to paint for a living, T'ang Yin became a social anomaly whose style of life cut across the conventions of his time. His experiences throw into sharp relief the realities faced by a Chinese painter who was both elite Confucian scholar and professional painter.
Anne De Coursey Clapp's work also explores larger issues of Ming painting raised by the artist's turbulent career. She describes the social and intellectual values exalted in Ming Suchou, its system of patronage, the contrast between the professional and amateur artist, and the formative influence of twelfth-century Sung dynasty styles on Suchou painters. Clapp shows how T'ang Yin's artistic inventions were made in the course of leading the revival of Sung dynasty styles in Suchou: tracing T'ang Yin's early studies of ancient and contemporary masters, she describes how he reworked an antique style, converting it into a vehicle of expression that reached fruition in a long series of fresh and powerful paintings of landscapes and birds-and-flowers. In the process, she revises the distorted version of middle Ming painting written by later Chinese art theorists to justify their own social and artistic values, noting especially the role of art patrons and their effect on artistic production.
Clapp analyzes the increasing currency of painting as a means of social exchange in ancient China. In particular, she identifies commemorative painting as a major genre of the later dynasties and explores the role it played in the oeuvres of professional masters with its humanistic implications for the Chinese view of the ideal scholarly man. Her broad view of T'ang Yin's career shows him divided between the professional and amateur camps of his time: in landscape and figural subjects he was aligned with the professionals; in flower subjects with the amateurs. Clap argues that the uneven distribution of styles and genres between this master who was subject to the market, and those who were independent of it, suggests that T'ang deliberately tried to expand the range of his paintings in order to appeal to buyers in the lower educational and social strata. Illustrated by some of T'ang Yin's most celebrated paintings and by some which are published for the first time, her work is of tremendous importance to art, literary, and cultural historians of Ming China.
"In this important work, Anne de Coursey Clapp has drawn a clear picture of T'ang Yin's life, patronage relationships, and contribution to the history of Chinese painting. In the person of T'ang Yin, she has chosen an ideal focus around which to examine some of the misleading stereotypes
which have distorted our understanding of Chinese painting since the seventeenth century. Marked by analytical clarity and scrupulous scholarship, her work is a welcome addition to the few works in English on individual Chinese artists."—Louise Yuhas, Occidental College