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XIANG Shengmo, Self-portrait in Red Landscape, 1644. Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper. Collection of Shitou Shuwu.
The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th-Century China
October 20, 2012 – January 20, 2013

This exhibition showcases nearly 60 paintings from an era of unrivaled historical drama and artistic achievement in China that spans from the late Ming (ca. 1600–1644) and the early Qing dynasties (1644–ca.1700). By adopting a novel, thematic approach centered on the concept of yin, or reclusion, this presentation brings the viewer deeply into the world of the literati—the educated elite who were at the forefront of historical change and voiced their thoughts and ideals through art.

Works included in the exhibition hail from the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, five other public institutions, and six private collections in the United States and Taiwan, as well as the permanent collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, including a number of paintings that have never before been published. They cover a variety of formats (hanging scrolls, handscrolls, albums, and fans) that span a range of subjects including landscape, figures, birds-and-flowers, and fish.

The accompanying catalogue is the first publication to explore in depth the theme of reclusion in painting and calligraphy within the broader context of political and social changes in the 17th century.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of SBMA Women's Board, Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, in memory of F. Bailey Vanderhoef, Jr., Dr. Albert E. and Antoinette Gump Amorteguy Asian Publications Endowment, Cecille and Michael Pulitzer Foundation, Victor K. Atkins, Jr., Natalia and Michael Howe, Siri and Bob Marshall, The Charles Bloom Foundation, The Rong-Wu Foundation, Capital Group, Inc. Asian Lecture Fund Endowment, Robert and Christine Emmons, Bruce G. Wilcox, Chen Chite, Amy Chu-hua O'Dowd, Pamela Melone, The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies, Kyoto, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art's Friends of Asian Art.

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Related Programming


New Family Resource Center Installation
View from a Thatched Hut: Reading Chinese Paintings
October 28, 2012 – January 20, 2013
The Family Resource Center is transformed into the world of 17th-century Chinese poets and painters as illustrated in The Artful Recluse exhibition. Sit at the Chinese scholar's desk and practice making the simple brushstrokes that translate into trees, rocks, and flowers, compose poems and assemble images on magnetic hanging scrolls, or hide away and read or draw in the thatched hermit hut. A variety of interactive Family guides and art supplies further enhance your visit.

Support for the Family Resource Center is generously provided by U.S. Bank.

Family Resource Center


Family 1st Thursday
Thursdays, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Bring the whole family and enjoy 1st Thursday together in SBMA’s Family Resource Center located across from the Museum Café on the Lower Level. Museum teaching artists will assist families in creating special exhibition-based art projects. Afterwards, enjoy select galleries until 8 pm.

Family Resource Center

November 1
Landscape Handscrolls
Put brush to paper, layering light to dark strokes of watercolor over a partially completed line drawing of a Chinese landscape featuring mountains, trees, and a river bridge.

December 6
Calligraphy and Seals
Explore the link between word and image in Chinese painting by adding your own calligraphic poem to a landscape and carving a signature seal.


Da Chongguang, Floating Jade Mountain, Calligraphy in semi-cursive script, n.d. Hanging scroll, ink on paper. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of N. P. Wong Family; Lan Ying, Autumn Landscape in the Style of Huang Gongwang, 1656. Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Maximus.

The Artful Recluse: Celebrating Nature through Calligraphic Chinese Painting and Mixed Media Art Making Studio Art Class for Adults
Saturday, November 10, 9 am – 3 pm
Join a team of SBMA Teaching Artists as they guide you through two projects inspired by The Artful Recluse exhibition: a traditional Chinese scroll or painted fan (with calligraphic brushwork), and a more contemporary art piece that breathes new life into traditional forms and subjects.

Luria Activities Center
$60 SBMA Members/$70 Non-Members (includes supplies)
For more information and reservations, visit



Studio Sunday on the Front Steps
Sundays, 1:30 – 4:30 pm
Visitors of all ages are welcome to participate in this hands-on workshop with SBMA Teaching Artists on the Museum’s front steps. Each month explore a different medium, including clay, metal, ink, wood, photography, and paper, and gain inspiration from works of art in the Museum’s permanent collection or special exhibitions.

In the event of inclement weather, activities will be moved inside to the Museum’s Family Resource Center. 

Front Steps of the Museum

Painting Landscapes
Sunday, November 11
Try your hand at painting a 17th-century style Chinese landscape on fan-shaped paper using a limited palette to capture the minimal, yet layered, look of Jiang Shijie's work.


Drinking with the Moon
Friday, November 16, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Inspired by the exhibition, the timeless poetry of Li Po, and in the spirit of the gatherings of poets and scholars, this intimate event for 300 guests recreates an evening with the literati. Enjoy wine sampling, poetry reading and impromptu composition, brush painting demonstration, authentic food, music and dance–all under the influence of the reluctant moon. Includes hors d'oeuvres, wines, and signature cocktails.

$25 SBMA Members/$40 Non-Members
For more information and tickets, call 884.6414 or visit


Shitao, Landscapes for Huang Lü, leaf 1 (detail), 1694. Ink and color on paper, album of eight leaves. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Fund.

Establishing Authenticity in Traditional Chinese Painting
Sunday, November 18, 2:30 pm
Lecture by Stephen Little, Curator and Head of the Chinese & Korean Art Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Issues of connoisseurship have been central to the appreciation and study of traditional Chinese paintings. How does one determine an authentic Chinese painting from a copy or forgery, and what determines the difference between a copy and a forgery? This lecture examines some of the key issues and techniques involved in the connoisseurship of Chinese painting.

Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members and Students/$10 Non-Members/$6 Senior Non-Members


Li Rihua, Lotus (detail), Ink on satin, hanging scroll. Private collection

A Taste for Business and the Business of Taste: A Collector and his Dealer in Late-Ming China
Sunday, December 2, 2:30 pm
Lecture by Timothy Brook, Republic of China Chair and Professor of History, University of British Columbia

Professor Brook recollects the diary of painter-calligrapher Li Rihua from the 1610s, giving us insight on how the art market worked and how Li tried to make it work for him. His greatest concern was to collect art that was authentic–perhaps the last thing that an art market is willing to supply.

Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members and Students/$10 Non-Members/$6 Senior Non-Members


A Special Concert with Gu-Zheng Artist Weishan Liu
Thursday, December 6, 7:30 pm
The Museum offers a special evening of Chinese music inspired by the exhibition and featuring Weishan liu, one of the world's leading gu-zheng virtuosos and who has toured in the united states and more than 20 countries.

Mary Craig Auditorium
$5 SBMA Members/$7 Non-Members


Zhang Feng, Immortals' Secrets in a Stone Cave (detail),1658, Ink and color on paper, handscroll, Private collection

Symposium: Image and the Imaginary in 17th-Century China
Friday and Saturday, January 11 and 12
Focusing on the interdisciplinary nature of 17th-century Chinese art, this symposium brings together historians, literary scholars, and art historians with specific expertise in the study of early-modern China to present new research related to image-making in words, pictures, and thought.

Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members*/$20 Non-Members/$10 Senior Non-Members and Students
*To receive free seating, Members must register by phone at 805.963.4364x400 and arrive 15 minutes early. Seating is limited.
Click here for more information on this event


Languagist-Art: A Pairing of Poetry and Painting
Sunday, January 13, 2:30 pm
Reading and performance by Che Qianz

An internationally-acclaimed poet, writer, and artist, Che Qianz has published over 21 volumes of poetry and essays, and has had a number of solo exhibitions of his artwork in China. Primarily an ink and wash painter, Che's works echo traditional Chinese calligraphy and watercolor, combined with more contemporary, experimental styles. Che is known as an avant-garde language Poet in China, and his artwork is closely connected with his poetry. Translated by UCSB Professor Yunte Hwang

Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members and Students/$10 Non-Members/$6 Senior Non-Members



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