The exhibition The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty highlights the new art forms and styles created in China under the Yuan dynasty. The unification of China under the Khubilai Khan and the massive influx of foreign craftsmen from all over the vast Mongol Empire generated over a century of incredible artistic and creative innovation.
Maxwell Hearn outlines the history of China's unification under Khubilai Khan, describing the evolution of the relationship between the educated elite from the Southern Song region with the new court of Khubilai. Though the Mongol Empire spanned Asia from Korea to the Danube River, it was the literati of the Southern Song region who most impacted painting under the Yuan Dynasty, as they balanced new styles of painting created in protest of Khubilai's rule with the struggle to maintain traditional Chinese identity under China's first foreign rule. This is also a watershed moment for the status of Asian artists, marking the first time that the paintings of the Chinese illuminati were understood to be autobiographical. Using the exquisite paintings produced during this period of political turbulence, Hearn traces these artists' politics, moral deliberations, and styles through a revolution in painting.
Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Curator, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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