The reception of Chinese painting in Britain, circa 1880-1920 : with special reference to Laurence Binyon
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The British understanding of Chinese painting owed much to Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) who enriched the British Museum’s collections of Oriental painting, and for almost forty years, published widely and delivered lectures in Britain and abroad. Binyon’s legacy is to be found in several archival resources scattered in Britain, America, Japan and China. This dissertation is a study of the reception of Chinese painting in early twentieth century Britain, and examines Binyon’s contribution to its appreciation and criticism in the West. By examining the William Anderson collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings (1881), I illuminate Anderson’s way of seeing Chinese pictorial art and his influence on Binyon’s early study of Oriental painting. I argue that the early scroll, The Admonitions of the Court Instructress, which Binyon encountered in 1903, ignited his interest in the study of traditional Chinese painting, yet his conception of Chinese pictorial art was influenced by Japanese and Western expertise. To reveal the British taste and growing interest in Chinese painting around 1910, Binyon’s involvements in major acquisitions and exhibitions of Chinese paintings at the British Museum, including the Sir Aurel Stein collection (1909) and the Frau Olga-Julia Wegener collection (1910), as well as his visits to Western collections of Chinese art in America and Germany, will be investigated. In order to understand the relevance and values of Chinese painting for the development of early twentieth-century British art, I also scrutinize how the principle of “rhythmic vitality” or qiyun shengdong, as well as the Daoist-and Zen-inspired aesthetic ideas were assiduously promoted in Binyon’s writings on Chinese painting, and how Chinese art and thought kindled British modernists to fuse art with life in order to re-vitalize the spirit of modern European art with non-scientific conceptions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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