Ink Paintings

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Introduction

Ink paintings have had a long, illustrious history in China, Japan, and Korea, with ink being the primary medium used by artists within the Northeast Asian region for centuries. These works would eventually come to influence artists in the West including Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh, who appropriated Eastern imagery into their own work. Artists today enjoy ink for its versatility, as it allows for the creation of fine lines, large transparent color washes, as well as intense darks when applied undiluted. In addition to ink-on-paper works, our “Ink Paintings” category also includes works created in another paint medium (acrylic, oil, watercolor, etc.) with an ink element. We invite you to explore our stunning international selection of ink paintings for sale today!

Famous Ink Paintings and Artists

During China’s Tang Dynasty, ink paintings evolved as artists refined their approach to the medium. The Southern School, which boasted artists like Wang Wei, Wu Zhen, and Dong Yuan, was known for its slight break away from realism. These artists used expressive brushstrokes rather than focus on precise details. Famous works inlcude Kuo Hsi’s “Clearing Autumn Skies over Mountains and Valleys’ (1070) and Huang Gongwang’s “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” (1350). Japanese painter Takuma Shoga is known for his series of two-folds screend depicitng Buddhist imagery. Contemporary artists continue to draw from the history of ink paitning. Li Huayi’s “Solitary Pine and Flowing Water” (1996) shares in the ink landscape painting tradition. 

History of Ink Paintings

The origin of ink paintings is rooted in the drawing practices of ancient Egypt and Greece. The medium was further refined in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907), when scholarly gentlemen, known as literati, dedicated themselves to the artform. Because ink painting requires diligent concentration, it was also often associated with Buddhist zen practices.  Monks spread ink painting techniques on their travels to Korea and Japan, where artists later honed their own approaches to the style. Today, artists continue to explore this medium, putting a contemporary spin on an ancient practice. 

Popular Ink Painting Techniques

Traditionally, artists who make ink paintings refined techniques for years. Once a stroke is painted, it cannot be changed. The finite nature of the medium meant artists had to master control of factors including ink density, tones, and brush application. Variations in ink tones were achieved by diluting ink with different amounts of water as well as by controlling the amount of pressure applied on the brush and surface. Artists also used different brush types to achieve various effects. A fine point brush, for example, yields more precise lines than a thicker one. Given the fluid nature of the medium, artists typically paint on highly absorbent paper, using a wet-on-wet technique. They apply black ink to paper where a lighter ink has already been applied. Though traditional ink paintings maintained a more reserved palette, artists today explore colorful ink paintings.