The Display of Chinese Art in Late 19th-century French Houses and Museums

Wong, Yuet Heng 黃悅行
2017
Supervisor: Prof. G.M. Thomas

In late 19th-century France (1870-1900), due to openings of ports by the two Opium Wars, more bourgeois people were able to form large-scale collections of Chinese art, through acquisitions in Parisian curio shops or travels to China. Seeing display as an important form of cross-cultural representation, this thesis looks at how these artworks were displayed in domestic homes and museums, and how Chinese culture was interpreted by bourgeois collectors. In terms of scholarship on 19th-century western interpretations of the east, Orientalism by Edward Said has been very influential, with its approach and argument widely applied in studies of different forms of representation of different eastern cultures by different western countries. On one hand, I conceptually agree with the post-colonialist discourse that a display of non-western art is not neutral, such that objects on display have gone through the process of de-contextualization and re-contextualization. On the other, I insist on examining the contextual details and aesthetic effects of different cases in order to analyse if western superiority is a major representation, and the various meanings of each individual display. Therefore, this research is both macroscopic and microscopic. I look into different elements of each display (its geographical location, architectural structure and style, division of space, system of categorization, and decoration), each collector’s attitude to and interpretation of Chinese culture, and the reasons behind these interpretations in relation to larger French social-political contexts, not limited to western expansionism in China. Considering these three groups of issues, I argue that most displays in late 19th-century France represented an appreciation of Chinese culture, and that such an appreciation was usually emphasized through effects of correlation and equivalence between Chinese and European cultures. The thesis discusses four individual displays that were relatively well known at the time, in the sequence of their formation. They include the house of the d’Ennery couple (1875), the house of Henri Cernuschi (1875), the Musée Guimet of Emile Guimet (1879), and the installation of the collection of Ernest Grandidier in the Louvre Museum (1894). While the first chapter provides an overview of the history of collecting and display of Chinese art before the late 19th century, each of the following four chapters focuses on one display. These four cases demonstrate a set of different but positive interpretations of China, pointing to different aspects of Chinese culture, as well as various forms of symmetry between Chinese and French cultures, such as analogy, comparative studies, and presentation of the history of Sino-French interaction.

Pang Xunqin’s Wartime Paintings, 1937-1946

Yang, Qingkang 楊慶康
2017
Supervisor: Prof. D. Clarke

This study examines Pang Xunqin 龐薰琹 (1906-1985)'s wartime paintings created between 1937 and 1946. An artist who studied art in Paris in the 1920s, Pang actively promoted Western modernist art in Shanghai in the 1930s after returning to China and fled to the southwestern China when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, along with numerous Chinese intellectuals and institutions. During this journey, he joined the Central Museum then in Kunming and undertook a task to study the folk art and culture of ethnic minority people in Guizhou and accumulated abundant textual and visual materials, which later became the main sources and inspirations of his wartime paintings. Depicting the ethnic minority people and their native handicraft, Pang's wartime paintings seemingly bear no direct visual relationship with the war; it is argued in the first chapter however that his depiction of the ethnic people belongs to an important type of wartime art displaying the new environment and people that artists encountered in western China. While many artists became interested in and travelled to the west frontier area independently, Pang's encounter with ethnic people occurred within an ethnographic project designed by the Central Museum. The second chapter, by exploring the founding background of the Museum and the social contexts from the 1920s to the 1940s, unveils how the Guizhou Study relates to the museum's vision and function to display a complete and modern China, and how it fits into the social contexts of wartime national crisis. Distinctly different from the usually biased and utilitarian illustrations of ethnic minority in early Chinese history, Pang’s paintings meticulously depict the highly characteristic ethnic costumes and decorative patterns, based on respectful and admiring attitudes. At the same time, many textual and visual evidences also show Pang’s conscious beautification and idealization of the ethnic figures and environment in his painting. The third chapter, by analyzing comparative visual examples, discusses how Pang’s methods affect the reception of his art in the specific context of wartime period. The fourth chapter discusses Pang’s various methods in the representation and application of decorative patterns in his paintings. Linking the interest in fabric patterns to Pang’s practice in design, this chapter reviews Pang’s design approach and theory developed from the 1920s to the 1940s, and argues that Pang’s paintings were impacted by his design in terms of pattern application and composition method. Ultimately, Pang Xunqin’s wartime paintings with modern subjects and a synthesized style reflect the artist’s effort to modernize his art by assimilating various sources and inspirations. Comprehensively charting and analyzing the artistic life and art creation of Pang Xunqin during the wartime period, this thesis examines his wartime paintings from different new perspectives by situating it in corresponding social and historical contexts and aims to shed lights on this important topic.

Style, Identity, Genre: Inventing the Le Nain Brothers in Seventeenth-century Paris

Cheng, Y. S. Grace
2016
Supervisor: Dr. O. Mansour

Since the rediscovery of the Le Nain by Champfleury in the late nineteenth-century, their unique representations of the poor have both fascinated and puzzled viewers and scholars alike. The Le Nain brothers' work and career have failed to fit in neatly within the aesthetic values of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, or in later art-historical narratives of the rise of classicism in French painting. The singularities of the three brothers' work have generated a large body of interpretation, both iconographic and stylistic in its approach, that has sought to define and explain the nature and motivation of their "realism". This dissertation proposes a fresh approach to this issue, one that is grounded in contemporaneous discussions of the nature of pictorial naturalism, on the Le Nain's attempts to define their status as painters in the context of Paris in the 1630s and 1640s, and on the analysis of their work as portrait painters - an aspect of their work that remains under-studied. While the fact that the Le Nain brothers were portraitists throughout their careers has long been known to scholars, the implications of this have not been fully explored. This thesis argues that the Le Nain incorporated conventions of portraiture in their paintings of everyday life, and that this practice is one of the reasons why it has proven difficult to interpret their work in conventional terms, whether in terms of the influence of Northern genre, or the academic dichotomy between high history-painting and low genre. It considers the brothers and their œuvre, and argues that the Le Nain's distinctive fusion of genre and portraiture provides an important framework for understanding their work. It also demonstrates how identifying as portraitists became central to the brothers' claim for status in the social milieu of mid-seventeenth-century Paris.

Representing the Literatus: Portraiture and identity in Yuan Figure Painting

Leung, Ge Yau 梁芷柔
2016
Supervisor: Dr. R.L. Hammers

This thesis examines the evolution of literati portraiture by studying a few extant portraits of literati with different personal backgrounds made at different times during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). I contend that the change in the identity of shi 士 in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and in the Yuan dynasty prompted the development of new modes of representation in literati portraiture. The Northern Song (960-1127) literati who did not have an aristocratic background and joined the rank of shi explored new ways to represent themselves other than in established formats of portraiture designed for the court and aristocrats. In the Yuan dynasty, the literati tried to emphasize multiple and different aspects of their identity and personality by reinventing or amplifying traditional genres of paintings and modifying established modes of representations for portraiture. In particular, a group of wealthy men without an aristocratic or bureaucratic background rose as a result of the blooming economy of Suzhou and its neighbouring areas strove for recognition and affirmation of their status in the literati circles and as shi. They created new modes of representation to define the changing and expanding identity of shi which based on the cultural accomplishment the gentleman and his status within the established community of educated scholars, the local and the Jiangnan literati circles. Yuan literati portraits became increasingly complicated in terms of their pictorial composition, style, practices and larger production as a whole in the Yuan dynasty to cater for the changing and expanding identity of shi. In early Yuan, Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) added a landscape to his self-portrait to explain his complex identity as a recluse at court. In mid-Yuan, four renowned scholars who had served at the capital were represented in the Portraits of four scholars by incorporating iconography of Confucian worthies and more specifically of the Song Daoxue 道學 (Learning of the Way) scholars to emphasize their identity as successors of Daotung 道統 (Transmission of the Way). From mid to late Yuan, the rising wealthy literati residing in Suzhou and its nearby areas in the east of Lake Tai adopted three new formats in portraiture to define their new identity. The first mode was to represent the subject in a seated position with scholarly accoutrements accompanied with writings in the form of inscriptions or colophons by the subject and/or friends. The second format depicted the wealthy literati in their thatched halls. Some of these representations of thatched halls could also be read as pictorial representations of the sobriquet of the subject such as The Thatched Hall of Zhuxi made for Yang Qian 楊謙 (b. 1283). The third format, the all-embracing "painting package," possibly invented by Yang Qian was exemplified in the Small portrait of the reclusive gentleman Yang Zhuxi. I argue that Yang Qian not only sought to gain recognition in the literati circle as a cultivated recluse through these two portrait commissions. He also endeavoured to establish himself as a leader in art who set the new standard of representation of the literatus self so as to compete for cultural authority with other wealthy elites. The modes of representations Yang Qian developed were used and further developed by the literati in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

The Joseon Fine Art Exhibition under Japanese Colonial Rule

Lee, Yoon Yung 이윤영
2013
Supervisor: Dr. Y.W. Koon

At the turn of the twentieth century, as Japan expanded its territory by colonizing other Asian nations, the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was signed in 1910 and Korea lost its sovereignty. In Political turmoil, the formation of national and cultural identity was constantly challenged, and the struggle was not argued in words alone. It was also embedded in various types of visual cultures, with narratives changing under the shifting political climate. This thesis focuses on paintings exhibited in the Joseon Mijeon (The Joseon Fine Art Exhibition) (1922-1944), which was supervised by the Japanese colonial government and dominated, in the beginning, by Japanese artists and jurors. By closely examining paintings of 'local color' and 'provincial color', which emphasized the essence of a "Korean" culture that accentuated its Otherness based on cultural stereotypes, the thesis explores how representations of Korea both differentiated it from Japan and characterized its relationship with the West. In order to legitimize its colonial rule, politically driven ideologies of pan-Asianism (the pursuit of a unified Asia) and Japanese Orientalism (the imperialistic perception of the rest of Asia) were evident in the state-approved arts. The thesis explores how the tension of modern Japan as both promoting an egalitarian Asia and asserting its superiority within Asia was shown in the popular images that circulated in the form of postcards, manga, magazine illustrations, and more importantly in paintings. Moreover, this project examines both the artists who actively submitted works to the Joseon Mijeon and the group of artists who opposed the Joseon Mijeon and worked outside of the state-approved system to consider the complexity of responses by artists who sought to be both modern and Korean under Japanese colonial rule.  

Christian Faith in the Art of Wu Li (1632-1718)

Fung, Nok Kan Nicole 馮諾勤
2012
Supervisor: Dr. Y.W. Koon

Wu Li 吳歷 (1632-1718) was an early Qing scholar artist who dedicated half his lifetime to religious pursuits. He was not only one of the many Chinese Christian converts in the seventeenth century, but one of the few early Chinese Jesuit priests. He was part of the educated elite community in Changshu, where foreign Catholic priests would visit and stay. Although Wu Li was exposed to Christianity at an early age, it was only when he was around forty sui that he turned to Christianity, possibly prompted after the deaths of close friends and family. Thereafter, he assisted European missionaries for a few years before leaving home to study in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Macao. On becoming a priest, he dedicated all his efforts in spreading his faith, and to take care of the Christian communities in Shanghai and Jiading. Throughout his priesthood, Wu Li continued with his scholarly practices including painting and poetry. It is in his poetry where elements of his Christian faith are most pronounced and there have been numerous research efforts focusing on this area of his metier. In contrast, current scholarship seldom examines the role of his faith in painting, and when there are interests, the tendency is to focus on the tension between his training in the Chinese literati painting tradition and his exposure to imported western artifacts. The predominant conclusion is that, as a painter, Wu was not influenced by western styles and elements, and maintained his status as an orthodox style painter. However, given Wu’s dedication to the church, his many poems on the Christian faith, and the close connection between poetry and painting, it is unlikely that Wu’s paintings remained untouched. This thesis unveils how Christianity, which had taken a new form in China and had captured the attention of the scholar-elite class, directed Wu Li’s approach to life, shaped his perception of nature, and, as I will show, inspired new ways of painting landscapes. I will scrutinize the Christian environment in seventeenth century China and within Wu Li’s immediate circles, and use the lens of religion to enrich a more nuance reading of Wu’s pictorial language. One of the key ways of breaking new investigative ground is to consider the function of paintings. As Wu Li presented gifts, including both didactic Christian artifacts and non-didactic landscape paintings to Christian converts, I examine the reciprocating relationships between Wu Li and his recipients, as well as his messages for them, which were driven by his priestly duty and ultimately his Christian faith.

Envisioning Authority: The Mongol Imperium and the Yonglegong Mural Paintings and Architecture

Li, Chun Tung 李俊彤
2012
Supervisor: Dr. R.L. Hammers

This thesis addresses the question of how the Mongol imperium’s patronage in combination with Quanzhen Taoist proselytism inspired the mural paintings and architectural forms of the Yonglegong永樂宮. The Taoist temple of Yonglegong was constructed during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) on the site of the former residence of the Taoist immortal L? Dongbin呂洞賓. During the period of the temple’s construction from 1244 to 1358, the Quanzhen 全真order, to which the Yonglegong was affiliated, thrived under the Mongol imperium. Previous scholarship has emphasized the Quanzhen order’s autonomous and exclusive role in the formation of Yonglegong. An analysis of the development of the Quanzhen from its establishment in late Jin dynasty (1115-1234) to its rise to prominence during the Yuan suggests that it received significant imperial supports and thus was not wholly autonomous. The Quanzhen order’s development was intertwined with and propounded by imperial patronage. The Yonglegong’s status as one the three holiest patriarch halls of the order ensured its centrality as a showpiece of the Mongol-Quanzhen collaboration. This study explores the iconographic innovations of Chaoyuantu 朝元圖 (Paying homage to the Origins), a representation of the Taoist universe, a subject that existed in pre-Yuan art; and the Hagiography of L? Dongbin, a new category of Taoist imagery. These two mural painting programs show different modes of appropriation. In the Chaoyuantu, the Mongol imperium altered the scheme of depiction and inserted new iconography in order to register their claims over established traditions of representation. As for the depiction of L? Dongbin, prior to Yonglegong, the immortal was only represented in single scenes, not in a fully developed biographical narrative. The Hagiography of L? Dongbin represents arguably a new genre of narrative depiction that facilitated an alternative ideology. Such alterations are regarded in this thesis as evidence that illustrates the shared interests of the Mongol imperium and the Quanzhen order as they intersected. In comparison with the mural paintings, the Yuan dynasty architectural structures’ significance has not been adequately recognized in earlier scholarship. This thesis reexamines the implications of the architectural features’ parameters and the unique alignment of structures in the Yonglegong. As such this study acknowledges the Yonglegong’s multiple identities as a complex that serves both the imperial and religious interests. It also evaluates the extent to which the architectural structures directed the organization and presentation of the mural paintings they housed. Through the reclamation of Yongleong’s historical context, aligned as it was with a Mongol-Quanzhen collaboration, this study recognizes the larger significance of the temple complex. The Mongol imperium in combination with the Quanzhen order have given rise to a new formulation of Taoist mural paintings and architecture with new iconography, themes and modes of representation.

‘Strange Machines’ from the West: European Curiosities at the Qing Imperial Courts, 1644-1796

Braun, Stephanie Eva
2011
Supervisor: Dr. Y.W. Koon (primary); Prof. G.M. Thomas

During the early to middle Qing period, from 1644-1796, Manchu emperors were keen collectors of so-called ‘strange machines’ from Europe. These included scientific, primarily astronomical, instruments such as globes, armillary spheres or sundials, as well as mechanical clocks, watches and automata. European missionaries and trade delegations introduced these items as gifts to the Qing imperial emperors to further their respective religious and commercial agendas. Manchu rulers initially appreciated clocks and scientific instruments as a means of facilitating the control of time and space, essential in asserting imperial legitimacy. By incorporating European objects into the multicultural identity cultivated at court, they confirmed their status as universal rulers. This thesis examines the changing role of European objects within the visual and material culture of the Qing courts across the reign periods of emperors Kangxi (r.1662-1722), Yongzheng (r.1723-1735) and Qianlong (r.1736-1796). It will show their transformation from statecraft instruments of high political and ritual significance to decorative domestic collectibles, ultimately rejected as insignificant toys. European clocks and instruments will be investigated not as technical, but as art objects in their own right in an examination of Qing court painting, architecture and decorative arts alongside key examples of the objects themselves. As patronage and collecting were regarded as an essential imperial duty, requiring high personal involvement from each emperor, the way in which European objects were integrated into Qing court culture varied considerably under each ruler. Kangxi created the foundation for the role of clocks and instruments at court through his engagement with the European sciences, which he employed to fully consolidate his emperorship. Yongzheng maintained, but did not further develop, his father’s legacy with regard to objects from Europe. Qianlong embraced the ‘strange machines’ from Europe, albeit less as tools for statecraft, but as highly decorative collectibles, which appealed to his taste for foreign exotica. Over time, and with flourishing production in the imperial palace workshops, curiosities from Europe became highly integrated into the visual culture developed under each emperor, remaining foreign by nature, but appearing increasingly as familiar court objects, enhanced with symbolic ornaments reflecting the different cultures within the Qing empire, or merged with traditional signifiers of imperial power. This development highlights the way in which the concept of Europe, and its representation through certain types of objects, was actively used to shape the ‘otherness’ that defined the visual identity of the Manchus, thereby promoting the emperors’ legitimacy as universal rulers. Each emperor’s personality and taste influenced the visual expressions of their reign through patronage and collecting habits. In their roles as collectors and patrons, Qing emperors exercised their own form of time and space control over the ‘strange machines’ they owned through manipulation of their context, form and original function.

Fashioning Food in Impressionist Painting

Wong, Alice Sau Mui 黃秀梅
2011
Supervisor: Prof. G.M. Thomas

This thesis explores the various roles of food in Impressionism by examining paintings of food so as to sort out their relationship with one another and their linkage to modern life in Paris in the 19th century. Food was related to spectacle, class reconfiguration, gender relations, consumerism and capitalism, and leisure, all of which were part of the revolution of modernity in Paris. By analyzing Impressionist images of food production, display and consumption in relation to these modern social and historical developments, the thesis explores the relationship between food and people, meaning the social dimension of food culture. In addition to standard art historical approaches, two research methods are especially important. First is to understand the general historical context of food imagery by examining 19th-century cookbooks, novels and treatises related to food, and popular visual culture including posters, menus, and prints. Second is to identify and analyze particular food motifs by studying recipes, statistics, and dictionaries of food. Five chapters deal with five aspects of food. Chapter one talks about the crystallization of food into spectacle as a result of the conspicuous consumption facilitated by the construction of Les Halles, the central food market. Chapter two examines two different kinds of food production – rural agriculture and urban artisan cuisine – as expressions of two dissimilar attitudes towards labor, linked to competing conceptions of time as continuous and discontinuous. Chapter three raises the issue of sociability, where the pleasure of eating can only be obtained through the engendering of a semi-private space linking private eating to public identity. Chapter four shows how the coalescing of food and women in Impressionism intensifies the pleasures of visually and physically consuming the female body, while paradoxically entrapping male viewers in desire. Whereas these first four chapters emphasize social aspects of food, chapter five shows how food affected the interiority of particular artists, demonstrating the embodiment of psychological traits in Impressionist still lifes of food. Overall, the thesis shows that Impressionist paintings of food actively interpreted and defined modern food culture as a continuous process of spectacularization and systemization, and that they consciously draw parallels between food consumption and visual consumption as similar processes of pleasurable consumption. By revealing that Impressionist food imagery sometimes does not comply with other Impressionist genres in interpreting modernity, the thesis opens new ways of thinking about both food culture and Impressionism.

Refuge and Empty Pavilions: Encountering Ni Zan (1306-1374)

Leung, Pui Yi 梁佩儀
2010
Supervisor: Dr. R.L. Hammers (primary), Dr. C.D. Muir

This thesis addresses the evolution of ting 亭 (pavilion) into a multivalent architectural motif in Chinese painting up to the Yuan dynasty (1260-1368). Ni Zan 倪瓚 (1306-1374), one of the four great painting masters of the Yuan, explored the representation of ting and modified this architectural structure into his signatory motif. His landscape paintings are famous for the feature of the empty ting, but the implications of this iconography are often overlooked. Traditionally the scholarship on Ni Zan’s paintings relies on embellished biographical myths of the artist. By reexamining Ni Zan’s historical circumstances, I contend that Ni Zan did not live a leisurely life after he lost his home, the time during which he created the empty ting motif. A survey on Ni Zan’s oeuvre attests that Ni Zan painted figures in the ting in early paintings – a controversial point not recognized in earlier scholarship.By scrutinizing Ni Zan’s writing on tings, this study shows that Ni Zan altered his conception on this building; it became associated with desolated landscape while at the same time suggested a place of refuge. This shift was parallel to the imagery in Ni Zan paintings in which he transformed the ting into empty structure in his later years. To comment on the literati frustration he experienced with the dynastic change, Ni Zan reinterpreted the empty ting as a complex iconographical motif in painting. Contemporaneous viewers saw nuanced meanings in the empty ting, regarding them as nostalgic and/or unhappy meditations on the transitory nature of living. I contend that the empty ting represented a personalized architectural structure for Ni Zan. It was a place of refuge in which personal feelings and memories were lodged so that viewers, his circle of friends, could gather again metaphorically in the pictorial structure in order to grieve about the transitory nature of happiness, to remember personal loss and to lament their bad fate of living during dynastic change. The depiction of the ting for personal expression relates to the larger history of the use of architectural motifs to make meaning in painting. By exploring the history of the inclusion of architecture as subject matter for painting, this study illustrates how architecture, in addition to its physical functions, was an established venue to convey cultural contents. The ting, in particular, was favored by the literati and became a theme in their literary pursuits. In the Yuan dynasty, the ting also had become a distinct subject in painting. It was in this context that Ni Zan created his painting with the ting. The ting’s association with literati culture motivated Ni Zan to explore its representation, and was pivotal in the establishment of his literati status. Through detailed analysis of the representation of architectural motifs in painting, this thesis evaluates Ni Zan in art history and reclaims the meanings of his empty ting motif in his historical context.

A Reassessment of Donatello’s and Titian’s Penitent Magdalens and the Perspectives They Offer on Women and Religion in the Italian Renaissance Art and Society

Soden, Katie Jane
2010
Supervisor: Dr. C.D. Muir