This is another in the series about baroque landscape…and its not about baroque landscape, but bear with me. It is relevant to the topic. I am fascinated by the beauty of Chinese landscape. Once I started to learn about the baroque style I noticed that the same basic features are present in the form of Chinese art too. Further investigation revealed that the traditional Doaist understanding of the natural world and man’s relation to it, as manifested in Chinese art, are in accord in many ways with the Catholic worldview.
Considering form first: if we look at any of the paintings shown here we see these features. There are a limited number of principle foci of interest which are more detailed and more coloured. The areas in between these are muted in colour and rendered in monochrome, usually black and grey ink washes.
In fact in Chinese painting the contrast in the treatment of the focal points and background areas is even more pronounced. The areas between the foci are often no more than a hazy mist. However, there is always a unity to the painting. It looks like a single scene not painting containing three unconnected scenes.
I began to investigate a bit and read a book called The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. This was written in China in the 1600s (which, coincidentally, is the baroque period in the West). What struck me is that their understanding of the natural world and how man relates to it is in accordance with the Christian worldview. The Daoist worldview does not include God, but it does recognize heaven, a place that is non-material. The natural world reflects a heavenly order and the task of man and his work is to act in harmony with it. Therefore, just like the Christian painters of the same period, they saw the beauty of the natural world as something that pointed to a place beyond it that was non-material. When we apprehend the beauty of nature, we perceive intuitively the harmonious relationships that exist between the parts; and the harmonious relationship of the whole to God (for the Christian), and to heaven (for the Daoist). As a Catholic I say that all harmony is derived from the harmonious relationships that are intrinsic to God, between the persons of the Trinity.
Compare, for example, two quotes that follow. The first by St Thomas Aquinas and the second (Read More)