Painting of Mongolia

Historical and cultural monuments on and under the ground of central Asia are mirrors of the wisdom and rich cultural heritage of our ancestors. Rock and cave pictures found in Dundgobi, Uvurkhangai and Khovd aimags indicated that this art was flourishing in Mongolia at the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age. The paintings of the 13th and 14th centuries reflect mainly the nomadic lifestyle, wars and nature, though portraiture began to flourish. Evidence of this is Chinggis Khaan’s portrait, made in 1278 as ordered by Khubilai Khaan, and today kept in Taipei. From the 15th century, religion (especially yellow Lamaism) began to dominate painting.
Mongolian paintings began developing in the two major directions of iconography and genre painting, depicting simple life and ordinary people. B. Sharav (1869-1939) was a painter whose art linked the old and the new. The way of life is most famously depicted in his One Day In Mongolia. The new social system which emerged with the 1921 Revolution produced art dedicated to promoting that system. Mongolian artists became acquainted with European painting and began using both Mongolian and western styles.
In the 1950s, many genres of fine art, carpeting and porcelain were introduced, when a number of artists and architects became noted for their thematic work. They included painter O. Tsevegjav for his animals; U. Yadamsuren for workers; N. Chultem and G. Odon for history and everyday life; L. Gavaa for nature; and architect S. Choimbol for monuments. In the 1960s there was a great artistic change, as artists began to reject linear perspective and colour harmony and began to work with more modern styles, themes and content. Such notable art works include U. Yadamsuren’s The Old Horse-fiddler; A. Sengetsokhio’s The Mongol Lady; B. Avarzed’s Uurgach; and Ts. Minjuur’s Caravan Guide.
Painters L. Gavaa, O. Tsevegjav and Ts. Dorjpalam are well known not only in Mongolia, but also abroad. They contributed significantly to the creation of a new art based on tradition, and trained generations of gifted painters. At present, new and different artistic trends are emerging, and creative young painters like as S. Sarantsatsralt, Do. Bold, J. Munkhtsetseg and D. Tengisbold are developing modern Mongolian art.
Rock deer carvings and stele are monuments of ancient times. Thousands of these are evidence of the wealth of art in ancient Mongolia. In the Tureg Era (6th to 8th centuries), the richest hoard of stone sculptures were created, over 500 of which can be found in the Altai and Khangai mountains. Undur Gegeen Zanabazar of Khalkh, the 17th century religious and political leader, made 21 versions of tara (consort of Buddha), which show the beauty of Mongolian women. Zanabazar laid a foundation for the depiction and praise of human beauty by Mongolian sculpture. Important achievements of modern sculpture include S. Choimbol’s (1907-1970) monument to Sukhbaatar, leader of the 1921 People’s Revolution, in the centre of Sukhbaatar Square. Since 1931, when this statue was erected, over 80 such monuments have been built. In the socialist era, before 1990, many statues were erected to state leaders, workers and herders.
Portraits statures were very popular, and there are still such renderings of Lenin, Stalin, Choibalsan, Jukov, Natsagdorj and Sukhbaatar. In the last 10 years, a more free style of monuments has emerged, with urban images.
Any consideration of Mongolian nomadic homes, clothes, weapons and living conditions must include crafts and embroidery. Unique art has developed from common things used in the everyday life of nomads over thousands of years. The first of the decorative arts was cave painting. The Bronze Age developed molten metal, and zoo form art. Fortune telling conglomerations of animal figures and animal body parts characterized the art of the Hunnu and Bronze Age people. They also made embroidery, applique and stitched felt. As Hunnu goldsmithing developed, they also made pottery, especially creating vases by the returning method with lock-up mechanism or by hand. Uhuani leaders were expert artisans, and made bows and arrows, other weapons, embroidery, woven items and processed leather. In the Tureg Era, people created silver plates, golden jugs with floral motifs, crooked and straight line figures. The Uigur made gold earrings, horse bits (for the first time decorated by continuous ornamentation) and vases. In Chinggis Khaan’s time, traditional crafts and embroidery were enriched with foreign influence. The 19th and 20th centuries were an energetic period for the development of craft and decoration. After gaining independence from China and the Manchurians in 1911, Mongolians renovated the monasteries and temples. At this time, painting, sculpture, embroidery, felt art, books and Buddha image-making from bone, wood and fossil amber developed powerfully. In the 20th century, especially in the 1930s, craftwork was almost detached from the herding lifestyle and became an independent art form.
There are an estimated 7,000 different Mongolian patterns. The most ancient are Sulden (emblem) Khee and Galan (fire) Khee, a very important pattern because all Mongolians honor fire. The patterns symbolize people’s hopes and wishes. It has become almost traditional that the government buys the best art for the National Modern Art Gallery.

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