Landscape in 'boneless' style by Hu Youkun, an album leaf painting
China, mid-17th century AD
In this album leaf, the artist uses colour wash only, with no ink and no outline. This technique is usually used on flower paintings and its use in a landscape gives an other-worldly quality to the scene. Many well-known writers have inscribed the album leaf and on the right-hand margin is the simple comment 'no ink'.
In China, the album format is more intimate than the hanging scroll or handscroll formats. Chinese painting albums usually consist of up to twelve folded pages, with wood or brocade-covered card covers.
The albums are relatively small, up to 120 square cm, and often include paintings as well as calligraphy. The paintings and calligraphy usually work together, sometimes with a poem on one page and a small painting illustrating it on a facing page. The paintings might be by one artist or a group of different artists, who perhaps joined together to dedicate their works to a friend for a special occasion.
J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)