From the figure of the Chinese intellectual artist to Contemporaneity.
From the perspective of the Chinese intellectual artist (Wenren 文人) to Contemporaneity.
More than one thousand years ago in China, a new intellectual Literati-artist figure emerged. This philosophical model would become central in the Chinese cultural panorama and make its way to the present day.
Wenren hua 文人画, refers to the tradition of painters emerging from the elite group of intellectuals or Literati, who, following the humanistic values and teachings of ancient traditions, including Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist teachings, updates, and applies them to the artistic and intellectual needs of the time.
The legacy of such artist-intellectuals has continued into the present day. Figures such as Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Cai Yuanpei, Li Shitong (Hong Yi), Fengzi Kai, Teng Gu, Pan Su, Pan Tianshou, Huang Binhong, Sha Menghai, Zhao Puchu among others, in many ways, have continued this tradition as artists and intellectuals.
The Wenren hua notion encompasses the poet, the painter, the calligrapher, the theorist, the scholar, and the intellectual in general in a single figure and sees the spirit and mind’s cultivation as one of the primary purposes of the intellectual’s work.
In this way, a close link is established between artistic practice and theory; simultaneously, there is no separation between the arts, and there is a common thread between intellectual practice and material application.
This figure is closely linked to Chinese cultural heritage, but this does not make it less compatible with Westernized contemporaneity’s artistic-cultural needs. In many ways, the West also has its own version of this in the so-called “Renaissance man” (Homo universalis).
The intellectual artist’s (Wenren) ’s concerns also accord with Environmental Aesthetics’s trend.
This is an expressive channel of contemporary art of fundamental importance. The biggest problems that affect our society are often linked to the environment and the destructive approach that current humanity has.
Respect for nature and the need to preserve it by living in harmony with it are intrinsic elements of traditional Chinese thought and Wenren hua.
The Wenren painter sees humanity and nature as two elements that are part of the same system: in these terms, to preserve human life, natural existence must also be protected, or else there would be a decay of both.