Calligraphy is the art of styized, beautiful, elegant handwriting or hand lettering done with a pen or a brush and ink. In countries around the world, calligraphy is an art form that accentuates the written content.

Japanese ink painting and calligraphy

Calligraphy as Art

While most think of writing to be simply a form of communication, the complex and decorative tradition of calligraphy raises the simple act of writing to becoming true art.   The artistic aspect in calligraphic style is the blend of movement and flow into each letters of a particular style. Most people in the US think of medieval Europe when thinking of calligraphy, but the art form has ancient origins and many distinct variants.

Diversity of Calligraphy Styles

In medieval Europe,  hand lettering was practiced by monks who faithfully reproduced religious and historical texts. Other forms of calligraphy spread in other ways. Artistic Islamic  calligraphy evolved to facilitate the spread of Islam itself.  In the ancient South Asian Mughal empire, the influence of Persian artistry can be seen in many texts and building design. Similarly, the cadence and allure of Sanskrit is similarly displayed. Mayan calligraphy took on the form of hieroglyphs, the artistic representation of words and ideas

Japanese calligraphyCalligrpahy is high art in East Asia with its intense attention to detail, flow, balance and lines. Japanese calligraphy developed new strokes and moves, adapting to local languages. For calligraphy out of Korea, geometry influenced the development of new techniques. In ancient China, calligraphy typically expressed the meaning of words through pictures.

Hand Lettering Old and New

The practice of hand lettering is not a new art form, flourishing long before the Middle Ages of Europe. It emerged in practical use for government seals, building ornamentation, and religious practice. Today, the art of calligraphy not necessarily religious in nature or about literal reproduction of historic texts. It is a style and art to itself, a beautiful means of expression, communication, and cultural signification.

 

Images from the collection of the Tokiwayama Bunko, Kamakura, Japan