Comparative Essay: Eastern vs. Western Landscapes

School of/style of Wang Yuanqi. 
Mountain with River and Trees. ca. 1642-1715.
Ink on paper.  Used with Permission.
Comparative Essay:  Eastern vs. Western Landscapes
The Eastern landscape tradition is markedly different from that of the West.  Eastern artists intended to evoke meditative contemplation through visual imagery using atmospheric perspective, placement, and asymmetry.  Eastern works also stress a reverence for nature and often include calligraphy or even poems as part of the primary subject. What ideas do Western landscapes convey?
For this assignment, we will choose one example each of paintings that represent the Eastern and Western landscape tradition. In our essay, we will compare and contrast each work’s individual similarities and differences and identify major contrasts in these two cultural approaches.  For basic information on how to approach this comparative essay, visit the Module 5 Writing Skills page.
Step 1: Research
 
First, conduct basic research on Eastern and Western landscape paintings and create a list that includes least three major ways in which they differ.  Then, using the ART 110 Research Guide sources or comparable sites, browse examples of both Eastern and Western landscape art and choose two examples that will allow you to write a fully-developed essay based on your three or more major points of comparison.  Next, summarize the primary differences you will write about in one “thesis statement” that will appear as a sentence in your essay’s introduction.  Note that not all Eastern and Western landscapes will make strong enough statements to support your thesis statement.  For example, if Eastern landscapes stress a reverence for nature, look for Western examples that either clearly do or do not represent the same idea.  Your choices should provide you with at least three clear, strong points of comparison.
Step 2: Writing
Essay (800 – 1200 Words)
A.  First, review the information regarding “comparative essays” in the Module 5 Writing and decide which strategy you will follow to write your essay.  Insert an image file of each of the landscape examples—one by an Eastern artist and one by a Western artist—you have chosen to write about at the beginning of your document file.  In your introduction, identify the artists who created the landscapes, the subject of the works, the era in which they were painted, the medium the artist used, and the size of the work.  For the next part of your introduction, provide a brief description of how each work represents the ideals of the Eastern and Western landscape traditions or philosophies.  As before, this is a “thesis-driven” essay.  Include your thesis statement in the introduction and explain the three or more points of comparison you will be using in your analysis of the different attitudes towards nature, landscape, or the environment that you find in these two works.
B.  Using one of the strategies explained in the Module 5 Writing Skills material (Compare and Contrast Strategies), explain how the two works contrast according to your three points of comparison.  Use terminology from the elements of art and principles of design as you examine each work.  Consider the following questions as you develop your comparisons:  What did this artist hope to accomplish with this work?  What aspect of the landscape did the artist most value? Did the artist demonstrate a personal connection with the landscape, or were they conveying a broader cultural message?  Does each work represent attitudes towards nature continue on today?  Explain each consideration in detail and refer directly to how they are demonstrated in the art itself.
C.  Conclude by explaining any major differences, similarities, or attitudes towards nature that were revealed by the artists of the works you chose.  Do you think the Eastern and Western philosophies concerning nature are vastly different, or are they the same? Explain why. Is this still true in the modern era?
Recommended Research Sources:
•   WESTERN ART:
•   The Smithsonian American Museum of Art 
http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/
•   EASTERN ART:
•   The Freer/Sackler Smithsonian Museums of Asian Art, 
Home Page
•
•   ADDITIONAL PERSPECTIVES:
•
•   Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
•   Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline Thematic Essays, 
Keyword:  “Landscape”
 
Basic Information for all AP Submissions:
Create a “Works Cited” section that lists your various sources in MLA Style format at the end of your minimum 2-paragraph AP. Be sure you have properly cited any direct quotes you use in support of your own writing.  For help with MLA Style citations, visit the suggested links in the ART 110 Research Guide or in our course home page’s Links area.