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Megan Krefting 202-633-0271; kreftingm@si.edu

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March 23, 2016

The exhibition “Painting With Words: Gentleman Artists of The Ming Dynasty” celebrates the relationship between imagery, brushstrokes and words as mastered by artists of the Wu School in China in the 15th to early 17th centuries. It will be on view in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from April 16 to July 24.

Highlighting the “Three Perfections”—poetry, painting and calligraphy—which were regarded as the ultimate expressions of Chinese literati culture during the Ming dynasty (1369–1644), the exhibition features 45 scrolls and album leaves by 30 Wu School artists. Most works come from the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery, home to one of the most extensive collections of Chinese painting and calligraphy in the country, with five loans from other U.S. collections. The earliest work is dated 1464; the latest work is dated 1622.

“The more you understand the personal, professional and stylistic relationships among these artists, the more you understand the individual pieces,” said exhibition curator Stephen Allee, the Freer|Sackler’s associate curator for Chinese painting and calligraphy.

The Wu School

Centered in the wealthy commercial city of Suzhou, the Wu School takes its name from a kingdom that ruled the area in antiquity. Members of the Wu School excelled in a wide array of creative expressions, but they were most admired by their contemporaries and later generations for their poetry, calligraphy and painting.

The Wu School encompassed both professional and literati, or gentleman, artists. Professional artists produced beautiful highly polished works on popular themes. Gentlemen artists often created painting and calligraphy for each other and their brushwork and themes tended to be nuanced and personal in nature. Accompanying most of the works in the exhibition, poetry was the primary method of social exchange for gentleman artists, as well as their most widely practiced form of self-expression.

“Painting with Words” will be the first Freer|Sackler exhibition exclusively devoted to the Wu School. An accompanying website will provide an opportunity to learn more about the objects on display.

About the Freer and Sackler Galleries

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which will be closed during the exhibition, is scheduled to reopen in spring 2017 with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium.