Students will compare the western convention of perspective and recession into space and the Chinese conventions of landscape with three distances. They will write a diary of an imaginary walk in one of the paintings by Chang Ku-nien.
National Core Standards
One 50-60 minute lesson
Preparation: print small copies of Chinese landscape images, one for each student, so they can choose one image to adhere to a paper.
Talk with your students about western landscape painting and how artists since the Renaissance have used one-point perspective, overlapping, and atmospheric perspective to give the illusion of depth and recession into space. Paintings by Claude Lorraine, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole and many others demonstrate these features.
After a discussion of western landscape painting, such as Thomas Cole’s Scene in the Catskills, look at a few of the landscape scrolls by Chang Ku-nien such as Taiwan Cross-Island Highway or Sharing a Boat in the Wind and Rain. Ask the students to think about what the artist did to give the illusion of depth in these paintings. Some things are similar such as atmospheric perspective but some features of Chinese painting are different. For example, in hanging scrolls Chinese painters create three focal points: the bottom third is the nearest, the middle third is middle distance, the upper is far distance. Discuss the necessity of moving your eyes through a picture to take it all in. Practice close looking with your students by discussing what they see in the near ground and in the distance.
Allow the students to select a printed picture or postcard of Chinese painting that they like. Affix it to the page of lined paper. Tell the students to imagine they are in the painting. Ask them to write a story or a journal entry as if they were a hiker or pilgrim walking toward the distance. What do they see, hear, smell? How do the trees and plants feel? What is their destination? Who are they traveling with? Ask them to include references to elements or details from their painting.
Gather the class writings together and bind them into a book format.