Each month the Asian Arts Council presents a program featuring a distinguished scholar, curator, collector or Asian arts enthusiast of note. We meet the last Thursday of the month in the Museum’s Boardroom at 1:00 p.m. and begin with a brief business meeting before the lecture. Meetings are free for AAC members, only $10 for Museum members, $12 for non-members and $8 for students.
Click on a date line below for a lecture summary from the Asian Arts Council Newsletter
AAC Newsletter – July - Aug. 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Legendary warriors, iconic courtesans and horrifying ghosts will be brought to life by Professor Satoko Shimazaki in Going to the Theater in Early Modern Japan: Kabuki on Stage and in Print. The all-male kabuki theater that originated some 400 years ago gave rise to the captivating woodblock prints that depicted its actors, and is still Japan’s most popular form of theater. Satoko Shimazaki, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at USC. She will present a user-friendly introduction to kabuki, and will highlight one of the most popular plays of all time, Ghost Stories at Yotsuya.
AAC Newsletter – September 2016, p 2-3 Lecture Flyer
The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe was brought to life by Forrest McGill, Senior Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. This ancient tale dating back some 2,500 years originated in Northern India, and continues to be relevant today as it portrays the eternal human values of compassion, loyalty, duty and valor. When Rama is exiled to spend 14 years in the wilderness, his faithful wife, Sita and his loyal brother, Lakshmana choose to accompany him. Rama is an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu who appears on earth in human form to correct the disorder in the world caused by the 10-headed demon, Ravana. After Ravana abducts Sita, an alliance is formed by Rama and the Monkey kingdom to conquer the demon and rescue Sita. Shape-shifting monkey general, Hanuman, discovers Sita and leads his army with Rama and Lakshmana in destroying the demon’s citadel. To prove to Rama that she preserved her virtue while in captivity, Sita undergoes a trial by fire and emerges unscathed. After Rama and Sita return to rightfully rule over Ayhodya, Hanuman proves his undying devotion to them by opening his chest to reveal Rama and Sita residing in his heart. The Asian Art Museum’s major exhibition of 135 works, The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe, will be on display from October 21, 2016 – January 15, 2017 in San Francisco.
AAC Newsletter – October 2016, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Rhiannon Paget, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Japanese Art at the St. Louis Art Museum, presented Visualizing War in Modern Japan: Highlights from the Lowenhaupt Collection at the St. Louis Art Museum. This extraordinary collection of Japanese woodblock prints, lithographs, postcards, textiles, advertising material and game boards illustrates Japan’s rise as a military power from centuries of isolation, covering the period 1868 through 1945. The opening of Japan’s ports to trade in 1854 led to the fall of Japan’s shogunate and the return to power of the Meiji Emperor in 1868. Subsequently, reforms were instituted and rapid Westernization in science, industry, education and the military were adopted, including Western clothing and hairstyles. Confrontations with Korea, China and Russia ensued as Japan’s military strengthened. The diverse artwork in various mediums of the collection illustrated dramatic imagery of wartime events in newspapers and magazines which appealed to the public’s growing sense of nationalism.
AAC Newsletter – November 2016, p 2 & 3 Lecture Flyer
AAC Newsletter – February 2017, p 2 & 3 Lecture Flyer
In January, our Associate Curator of East Asian Art, Diana Chou, Ph.D., spoke about the exceptionally talented hydraulic engineer and respected artist, Ren Renfa (1254-1327) who lived during the Yuan Dynasty. During his lifetime he was best known for his captivating horse paintings which emulated Tang Dynasty masters, by employing the concept of fugu or ‘returning to the past.’ However, this lecture focused on the elements of his bird-and-flower paintings which are also highly regarded. Bird-and-flower paintings such as Ren’s Wild Ducks in Spring (and Autumn) Water carry much symbolism: flowering crabapple can suggest spring, while its fruit suggests fall; wild ducks and crabapple are metaphors for honorable scholars; migrating birds represent the seasons. Although the styles of both the Northern Song and Southern Song Academies were practiced during the Yuan period, Ren’s bird-and-flower paintings employed the style of the Southern Song such as focusing on subject matter in the foreground with little interest in the background; brushwork that emphasizes detail; and a diagonal arrangement of subject matter. Many of Ren’s paintings were appreciated by Japanese collectors, and even influenced important Japanese artists such as Kano Tanyu (1602-1674) and Kokei Kobayashi (1883-1957). Ren’s popularity recently reached a milestone when his Five Drunken Kings Return on Horses sold at auction for over $6 million.
AAC Newsletter – March 2017, p 2 Lecture Flyer
In his engaging presentation, Authenticating Chinese Painting, Joseph Chang, Ph.D., elucidated the keen eye and patient scholarship that is required to analyze and determine an authentic Chinese painting from a copy or forgery. As a starting point, there are three key elements for judging a painting: the various, and often numerous seals; the calligraphy on the painting; and the style of the painting, particularly the brush strokes. A seal is applied by the artist along with his signature and also often a poem relating to the subject matter of the painting, evoking the mood the artist has created. Sometimes there are multiple seals as a result of collectors subsequently adding their seals along with a poem to the painting as a mark of their appreciation of the work and the artist, or to associate themselves with that artist. The calligraphy of the artist, which in itself is a form of artistic expression, can also be analyzed for its style in relation to the artist. Analyzing the seals and style of calligraphy of the additional tributes by collectors can also reveal valuable information regarding authenticity. Close examination of a seal imprint can determine if a seal was made from a modern metal, or if it was carved from the traditional soapstone, which will show cracks and rough edges, and even the carving strokes made during its creation. Analyzing the brushwork of the artist requires a deep familiarity not only with that artist’s work, but also a thorough knowledge of the painting styles in use during the time period of his life. Another useful point of reference can be to compare a painting in question to other works by the same artist when examples are available. Dr. Chang Shen Zhou,1477 Portland Art Museum concluded with the observation that authenticity is not determined by the painting that is most pleasing to the eye (which could be a copy), but whether there is real evidence of it being by that particular artist.
AAC Newsletter – April 2017, p 2 Lecture Flyer
In an engrossing and illuminating lecture, Symbols of Power: Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands, Louise Mackie guided her rapt listeners on a caravan journey along the ancient Silk Route. Visiting dignitaries would have been dazzled by the luxury textiles that have been symbols of status, wealth, and power at Islamic imperial courts for centuries, and set the standard for beauty and fueled prosperity and urbanization. At one time, silk was worth more than its weight in gold, each cocoon producing as much as 1,300 yards of silk thread. In a period of thriving international commerce, Iran was the primary producer of raw silk which the Ottomans would acquire through trade, then send it to be woven into luxurious fabrics by Italian master craftsmen. To further embellish the cloth, pearls and jewels were sometimes woven into the fabric. A 13th century example of ‘Cloth of Gold’ with winged griffins and lions, woven with lavish amounts of gold thread, was shown from the period of the reigning Mongols. The pattern, incorporating motifs from both Iran and China, was likely produced in an imperial workshop in Central Asia, using an Iranian technique called lampas which combines two types of weaves on one piece of cloth. Opulent textiles were often presented as imperial gifts from one ruler to another in the form of robes of honor or gold brocaded silk carpets or even ornately embroidered tents. Further demonstrations of royal authority and power were the thousands of colorful tents that the Islamic rulers used for military campaigns, hunting expeditions and imperial ceremonies, creating a small city with innumerable elaborately decorated tents in all sizes, some as large as a castle. The beauty of these luxurious textiles continues to excite and entice us today with the Islamic designs and colors that are appropriated by modern designers for the latest fashion and sophisticated interior decor. Louise Mackie is a distinguished scholar and newly retired Curator of Textiles and Islamic Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art whose recently published book, Symbols of Power: Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands, 7th-21st Century, received the highest recognition from the Islamic Republic of Iran as World Book of the Year for its scholarly and comprehensive treatment of the subject.
AAC Newsletter – May 2017, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Stacey Pierson, Ph.D., brought us a fascinating tale, A Passion for China: Sir Percival David and His Remarkable Collection. Not only was Sir Percival’s collection of “imperial taste” Chinese ceramics remarkable, but so was his life. He was born in India in 1892 to Sir Sassoon David and educated at Cambridge. As his passion for collecting Chinese ceramics developed, he specialized in those that were made for the emperor in the royal workshops, and especially those with inscriptions or the 4- or 6-character reign mark of the emperor. In 1927 he purchased from a Chinese bank over 40 ceramics from the imperial collection that had been put up as collateral by the Dowager Empress when the last of the imperial dynasties ended. Many of these ceramics were the rare Song dynasty pale blue Ru ware, and now form the cornerstone of the collection. In 1935, he organized the first international exhibition of Chinese art at London’s Royal Academy, consisting of over 800 objects from collections around the world, including China. Although he suffered from ALS from the 1930s until his death in 1964, he traveled extensively, visiting other collections, including the imperial objects stored in caves in Taiwan until the National Palace Museum opened in 1965 in Taipei. In 1950, he gave his collection of over 1,500 ceramics to the University of London with the stipulation that it be a part of their teaching program of Chinese art and archaeology. One of the most important and earliest dated examples of blue-and-white ware, developed during the Yuan dynasty, is a pair of temple vases with inscriptions dating them to 1351, which have become known as the “David vases.” They are over two feet tall with four-clawed dragons in underglaze cobalt blue, encircling the circumference and phoenixes flying through clouds around the neck. The collection is now on display in the British Museum, as well as online.
AAC Newsletter – June 2017, p 2 Lecture Flyer
In a highly interesting and informative lecture, our Associate Curator of Asian Art, Diana Chou, Ph.D., illuminated the works on display in her current exhibit, Modern Japan: Prints from the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and Beyond. When Japan opened to the West in the mid-19th century, many changes resulted from their embrace of “modernity.” While traditional ukiyo-e printmaking declined, exposure to Western subjects and techniques engendered the creation of Sosaku hanga (Creative Print Movement), whereby the artist portrayed ordinary, everyday subjects in place of the stylized kabuki actors and beautiful women of the Edo period. In this movement, the artist Daitoku-ji Temple, 1959, Saito Kiyoshi 2009.47 undertook all the steps of producing a print: designing, carving and printing – unlike the former collaborative process utilizing an artist, carver, printer and publisher. Another group of artists formed Shin hanga (New Print Movement), reviving ukiyo-e subjects of beautiful women and scenic landscapes, but worked in conjunction with a publisher who promoted their works. One of the most influential publishers was Watanabe Shozaburo who advanced a lyrical and nostalgic view of Japan to the Western audience, and produced two influential shows in the U.S. in the 1930s. As artists explored new techniques, Contemporary printmakers combined elements of both of the schools and expanded into lithography and etching. Just as Japanese artists were eager to learn of Western techniques and styles, Western artists such as Charles Bartlett and Elizabeth Keith were drawn to Japan and the beauty that could be produced with the woodblock print.
AAC Newsletter – July 2017, p 2 Lecture Flyer
Tale of Genji, the first novel in the world, was written by Lady Murasaki in early eleventh-century Japan. It is a courtly romantic tale that was the most venerated literary work among Japanese aristocrats and samurai warriors during the Heian period (794–1185) when it was written, and then enjoyed even by commoners in later centuries. Consisting of 54 chapters, the Tale of Genji portrays the amorous life of Prince Hikaru Genji (‘Shining Genji’). The complexity of the tale is reflected in the entangled psychological situations of the characters. In this lecture, Masako Watanabe, retired senior research associate for Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, will first talk about the visualization of the complex inner feelings of the characters. Then, by focusing on images of the Third Princess – the young wife of Genji who has an illicit love affair with an aristocratic youth – she will explore how depictions of the princess drastically changes during the Edo period (1615-1868). The lecture will introduce a variety of images of the Tale of Genji from the earliest illustrations of the 12th century to modern manga renditions of the tale.