Papers on Arts I

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room G

  • Chaired by Katie Hill
  • Baihua Ren, “The Cultural Biography of The Water Mill
  • Xiaoyan Hu, “The Legacy of Qiyun (Spirit Consonance) in 10th to 14th-Century Chinese Landscape Painting”
  • Freerk Heule, “Huang Shen and His Innovation in Portraiture”
  • Josepha Richard, “18–19th Century Sino-British Scientific and Cultural Exchanges as Seen through British Collections of China Trade Botanical Paintings”

Baihua Ren, “The Cultural Biography of The Water Mill

The Water Mill, currently held in the Shanghai Museum, is a famous jiehua painting which for a long time was believed to have been created by the Five Dynasties artist Wei Xian. At present, most scholars hold the view that it was created around the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). Through the analysis of the cultural biography of The Water Mill, which presents a full collection history of the handscroll since the Northern Song Dynasty, its authenticity could be proved. From historical records and a residual signature, the son-in-law of the Yingzong Emperor Zhang Dunli can be established as the artist of The Water Mill and the painting may have been created around 1068–1100. The interpretation of the painting image supports this conclusion and the hypothesis from the cultural biography—the construction, costumes, climate, culture, military system, etc. —all reflect the characteristics of the Northern Song Dynasty. Therefore, The Water Mill can be seen as a representative architectural painting of the golden age of jiehua and an image representing Song culture. This paper would like to authenticate The Water Mill from its cultural biography and analysis of its collection history, possible artist and time of creation.

Xiaoyan Hu, “The Legacy of Qiyun (Spirit Consonance) in 10th to 14th-Century Chinese Landscape Painting”

One may question whether the notion of qiyun (spirit consonance) initially proposed by Xie He (active 500–535?) in his six laws of Chinese painting and inherited by Zhang Yanyuan (815–875) significantly differs from the notion of qiyun applied by the 10th-century master and theorist Jing Hao (active in the 10th-century), further developed by the Northern Song art historian and connoisseur Guo Ruoxu (ca. 1080) and the early Yuan connoisseur and critic Tang Hou (active around the late 13th century and the early 14th century) in the context of landscape painting as a dominant genre from the 10th century to the 14th century. In this paper, I attempt to argue against the objection to a possible comprehensive notion of qiyun. By examining the notion of qiyun developed by three influential critics Jing Hao, Guo Ruoxu, and Tang Hou, we will see that although there are differences between Xie He and later critics regarding the notion of qiyun, there are also important correspondences. We will see that behind an invisible thread linking them in adopting the same terminology of qiyun, it appears reasonable to seek an understanding of qiyun based on this thread and common grounds between them and justify a continuity of the legacy of a comprehensive notion of qiyun in the context of landscape painting.

Freerk Heule, “Huang Shen and His Innovation in Portraiture”

The non-scholar painter Huang Shen (黃慎, 1687–1772) from Yangzhou painted initially on request both Ming-style landscapes or colourful flowers-with-a-poem to make a living. In traditional landscapes, only miniature figures could be discerned and the iconography of painting an Emperor or elite people was petrified—without personality. Identity was represented with colours and paraphernalia of rank, not facial expression. Huang found a new way for ‘portraiture’ of figures in real-life situations, with frowning eyebrows, mad hat or strange body posture. It was not done to paint old men with fresh girls or naughty children. What were the sources for this revolutionary change?
First, the foreign painters, invited by the Qianlong Emperor, such as Castiglione (1688–1766), educated Western Art. Second, they introduced books of the Italian masters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Raphael. Painters like Hua Yen (1682–1756) and Yu Zhiding (c. 1647–1709) made the ‘Peking Tour’ and absorbed the innovative concepts. Third, Huang follows the Fujian style with figures from folk stories, history and theatre. Four, he was informed of the Buddhist painting tradition, as developed on the murals in the Dun Huang caves. And five, as a roaming artist, he picked up any new ideas quickly. To conclude, in following these five sources of a breakthrough in portrait painting, by performing The eight Taoist immortals, Zhong Kui with a bat, and many more—to show the weird, the underdog, injustice, and experiences—, he was a true ‘Yangzhou Eccentric.’

Josepha Richard, “18–19th Century Sino-British Scientific and Cultural Exchanges as Seen through British Collections of China Trade Botanical Paintings”

In the 18th–19th century, British botanists collected thousands of Chinese plants to advance their knowledge of natural history. Until the end of the Canton System (1757–1842), scientifically accurate paintings were commissioned from Canton Trade artists in Guangzhou. John Bradby Blake (17451773) was the first British botanist to systematically collect Chinese plants in the 1770s, relying on the help of Chinese merchants and translators. Not long after, Chinese export paintings studios in Guangzhou started to mass-produce decorative botanical paintings for the foreign market. Neither decorative nor scientific Canton Trade botanical paintings fit easily either in the European botanical tradition or that of Chinese bird-and-flower paintings but were nonetheless avidly collected by Europeans. This paper demonstrates how untangling the chronology of some botanical paintings allows uncovering the unacknowledged agency of Chinese ‘go-betweens’ (translators, artists, and merchants) in Sino–Western scientific and cultural exchanges in Guangzhou during the late Qing dynasty.

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Room G