In the densely populated urban centers of China, enclosed gardens have long been an integral part of residential and palace architecture, serving as extensions of living quarters. The preferred site for hosting literary gatherings, theatrical performances, and imaginary outings, gardens were often designed following the same compositional principles used in painting. And as idealized landscapes, gardens often drew inspiration from literary themes first envisioned by painters. Not only were painters often recruited to design gardens, but as gardens came to be identified with the tastes and personalities of their residents, artists were also called upon to create idealized paintings of gardens to serve as symbolic portraits intended to reflect the character of the owner.
This exhibition, which encircles the Astor Chinese Garden Court, explores the pictorial imagery of gardens as an abiding source of artistic invention. Featuring more than sixty paintings, as well as ceramics, carved bamboo, lacquerware, metalwork, textiles, and several contemporary photographs from the Museum's collection, the exhibition examines the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years.