The Romans also were particularly interested in showing historical events, a theme that the Greeks had avoided. Reliefs of commemorative arches and columns tell the story of complete military campaigns. The best-known columns are Trojan’s Column and the Column of Marcus Aureoles.
Oriental painting, the painting of Asia, has three main branches — Indian, Chinese, and Islamic.
Indian painting, is primarily religious art. Indian painters create their works to help the people communicate with their gods. Their main subject include gods and stories about the gods and holy people. Indian artists paint on manuscripts of holy texts, on banners and wallhangings, and on walls. They direct all the elements of their pictures toward increasing the religious experience of the viewer. Every object and figure in their paintings has a specific meaning. Gods are usually portrayed as red and fierce in order to show their great power. Their many arms let them display all the symbols of their power at once. The god appears warlike and full of motion, which shows that he can conquer his enemies. The artists do not attempt to show gods and the other figures in real space. All the figures seem to float in a heavenly atmosphere. They are seated on clouds or lotus plants. Clouds and a ring of flame — which symbolize the universe — encircle the chief figure and fill the background with swirling movements and color.
Chines painting. The major Chinese religions al stressed a love of nature. Partly as a result, tree major kinds of subject matter dominate
Chinese painting. They are birds and flowers; figures; and landscapes of the countryside, mountains, and sea. Chinese landscape painters tried to create a feeling of union between the human spirit and the energy of the wind. water, mist, and mountains. Such pictures express the Chinese belief that there is an inner harmony and balance among all things in the world. Chinese painters use black ink that could produce different tones and a brush that could many kinds of lines. Artists created many paintings in black ink only. Even when they added color, the ink drawing remained the basis of the design. The Chinese paid more attention to the brushstrokes than to the subject matter. Most surviving Chinese painting are painted on silk or an absorbent paper. Many artists painted on walls or a large screens. All these paintings require special study. The artist intended their works to be examined only if the viewer had time to enjoy them without distraction.
In China, painters, like poets and scholars, were considered persons of learning and wisdom. Chinese paintings were closely associated with poetry. Many Chinese paintings combine certain objects, such as a particular bird or flower, because the objects are associated with a famous poem.
Chinese painters produced many great landscapes painted on long scrolls. The viewer unrolls the scroll slowly from right to left, revealing a continuous succession of scenes of the countryside. These hand scrolls are in a uniquely Chinese art form. Appreciation of them requires much patience and thought.
Xia Gui and Ma Yuan created a style of idealized landscapes that greatly influenced Chinese and Japanese painting.
Human figures were also important in Chinese painting. Artists painted portraits of both real and imaginary people. They painted scenes that illustrate stories and historical subjects. Many paintings show the elegant, refined life at court. Some of these pictures show furniture and decorations in great detail. Others have a plain background. All these paintings are remarkable for a delicacy of line.
Japanese painting is included in the tradition of Chinese painting because Japan's art was greatly influenced by China's. However, the Japanese changed the Chinese styles to suit their own taste. The Japanese use of the color and abstract design had transformed the art into a new form of expression. Japanese artists were interested in the time and place in which they lived. Their paintings show their fondness for storytelling as well as for art that appeals to the emotions and the senses.
From the 1500's to the 1800's, Japanese artists painted in a style that strongly emphasized color and design. These artists were called decorators. The decorators omitted detail from their pictures and stressed
only outlines. They applied their color evenly with no shading. The decorators often added gold leaf to their paintings for an effect of luxury. The finest decorative paintings were pictures of nature, particularly animals, flowers, and landscapes.
Throughout most of its history, Japanese painting has reflected the taste of the upper classes. But the Japanese style most familiar in the West is an art of the common people. The style is called ukiyo-e (the floating world). The floating world is a world of pleasure and entertainment, and of great actors and beautiful women.