The Orchid in Chinese Painting

January 15, 2011 – July 17, 2011

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC

Sublevel 1 Floor Plan

On view are 20 works related to orchids in Chinese painting, ranging in date from the 15th century to the 19th century. The cymbidium orchid (lan) has been cultivated in China for hundreds of years. Since the time of Confucius (551-479 BCE), the cymbidium orchid has been associated with principled, moral gentlemen and with such attributes as friendship, loyalty, and patriotism. After the orchid became an independent subject in Chinese painting during the Song dynasty (960-1279), artists depicted orchids using outline and color. From the 13th century on, most scholar artists chose to paint the leaves and blossoms calligraphically, using only ink. Twelve of the paintings that are on view belong to the ink orchid tradition. Also, this exhibition will coincide with the exhibition Orchids: A View from the East on view at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum beginning January 29 through April 24, 2011.