Six principles of Chinese painting
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The Six principles of Chinese painting were established by Xie He (also known as Hsieh Ho), a writer, art historian and critic in 6th century China. He is famous for the "Six points to consider when judging a painting" (繪畫六法, Pinyin:Huìhuà Liùfǎ), taken from the preface to his book "The Record of the Classification of Old Painters" (古畫品錄; Pinyin: Gǔhuà Pǐnlù). This was written circa 550 and refers to "old" and "ancient" practices. The six elements that define a painting are:
- "Spirit Resonance," or vitality, and seems to translate to the nervous energy transmitted from the artist into the work. The overall energy of a work of art. Xie He said that without Spirit Resonance, there was no need to look further.
- "Bone Method," or the way of using the brush. This refers not only to texture and brush stroke, but to the close link between handwriting and personality. In his day, the art of calligraphy was inseparable from painting.
- "Correspondence to the Object," or the depicting of form, which would include shape and line.
- "Suitability to Type," or the application of color, including layers, value and tone.
- "Division and Planning," or placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth.
- "Transmission by Copying," or the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity.
These have been translated over the years by a succession of sinologists with very varying translations. "The problem lies, of course, in the terseness of the original Chinese, where each principle is stated in but four characters.... Each period of Chinese painting has its own special way of interpreting the six principles...their application is fluid, varying according to period and artist".
- Fritz van Briessen, The Way of the Brush: Painting Techniques of China and Japan. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1962, pp. 111-112.