Anglo-Chinese Cultural Exchanges: The Connection between Chinese Artists and British Curators in the 1920s and 1930s’

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Abstract

The 1935-6 International Exhibition of Chinese Art held at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House in London was an important event showing the early collaboration between British and Chinese museums. While the Western conception of Chinese art was largely shaped by Japanese and European expertise in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, numerous works of art brought from China’s national collections and the advice from Chinese experts in the International Exhibition helped enhance the British understanding of Chinese art and culture with fine specimens and native views from the original country.

A dedicated curator of Oriental Prints and Drawings from the British Museum, Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) who was among the pioneering art historians and collectors of Chinese art benefited from scholarly exchanges with Chinese artists and scholars in Britain. Although Binyon had widely been regarded as the authority on Chinese painting in Europe, America and Japan around 1900-1940, he had not come into contact with Chinese experts and learned about their native views of Chinese art and history until the late 1920s. Binyon’s correspondence with and writings about his Chinese friends, such as Kung-pah T. King (1878-1926), Liu Haisu (1896-1994) and Chiang Yee (1903-1977), provides valuable resources to reconstruct the early history of curatorial exchanges between Britain and China.

This paper presents for the first time a focused study of cultural exchanges between Laurence Binyon and Chinese artists and scholars in the 1920s and 1930s. With reference to Binyon’s legacy as found in several archival resources scattered in different countries, I will reconstruct the itinerary of Binyon’s only trip to China and Japan with his colleague Robert L. Hobson (1872-1941) in 1929 on searching for fine works of Oriental painting, ceramic and sculpture. I will also investigate the interaction among Chinese artists, ambassadors, British curators and collectors in order to show how Chinese connoisseurship influenced the Western perception of Chinese art, and how Chinese scholars considered Binyon’s contribution to the appreciation and study of Chinese art in the West. The impact of the 1935-6 International Exhibition of Chinese Art on nurturing Anglo-Chinese cultural exchanges will also be evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2011
EventBritain and China: pasts, presents and futures, from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first - United Kingdom, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Aug 201126 Aug 2011
https://cpb-eu-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.bristol.ac.uk/dist/0/168/files/2012/06/20110824-26-BritainandChina_abstracts-presenters.pdf

Conference

ConferenceBritain and China: pasts, presents and futures, from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityBristol
Period24/08/1126/08/11
OtherBritish Inter-University China Centre
Internet address

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