Painting on Porcelain

Although pottery dates back thousands of years, true porcelain is thought to have first been made in China during the Han Dynasty, 202 BC – 220 AD. Chinese potters in Zheijiang province are believed to have developed kilns for firing ceramic pots containing small quantities of kaolin clay at temperatures of 1260° C or higher.

The first of those fine, translucent ceramics were celadon wares, with crazed glazes that ranged in colour from pale grey green to rich blue greens and intense jade. But from around 800 AD, the chosen color for celadon was the classic soft, pale green that is so recognizable today.

China painting, or porcelain painting, is the decoration of glazed porcelain objects such as plates, bowls, vases or statues. The body of the object may be hard-paste porcelain, developed in China in the 7th or 8th century, or soft-paste porcelain (often bone china), developed in 18th-century Europe.

Typically the body is first fired in a kiln to convert it into a hard porous biscuit or bisque. Underglaze decoration may then be applied, followed by glaze, which is fired so it bonds to the body. The glazed porcelain may then be painted with overglaze decoration and fired again to bond the paint with the glaze. Most pieces use only one of underglaze or overglaze painting, the latter often being referred to as "enameled". Decorations may be applied by brush or by stenciling, transfer printing, lithography and screen printing.

Porcelain painting was developed in China and later taken up in Korea and then Japan. Decorated Chinese porcelain from the 9th century has been found in the Middle East. Porcelain for trade with this region often has Islamic motifs. Trade with Europe began in the 16th century. By the early 18th century European manufacturers had discovered how to make porcelain. The Meissen porcelain factory in Saxony was followed by other factories in Germany, France, Britain and other European countries.

Technology and styles evolved. The decoration of some hand-painted plates and vases from the 19th century resembles oil paintings. In the later part of the 19th century china painting became a respectable hobby for middle-class women in North America and Europe. More recently interest has revived in china painting as a fine art form.