Chinese ancient paintings undervalued


Mountains, Chinese export painting

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Chinese export paintings undervalued

16 November 2016

Chinese export paintings have a much greater cultural-historical and artistic value than was previously thought in the Netherlands, according to external PhD candidate Rosalien van der Poel. She advocates making these works accessible to the general public. PhD defence 30 November.

Not amateuristic artworks

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Chinese artists produced so-called export paintings: works that were specifically intended for Dutch clients. These clients were mainly traders, Jesuits, captains and officers visiting China, who wanted souvenirs to take home with them. These paintings showed people at home what life in the Far East was like. The paintings predominantly featured harbours (often with the client’s ship in the foreground), traditional dress, flora and fauna, and landscapes. These were not amateuristic artworks; they were expensive and some of the harbour scenes were up to two metres across.

Never previously exhibited

Many export paintings were passed on within Dutch families from generation to generation or found their way into private collections, finally ending up in museum depots. In the Netherlands there are around 4,000 such paintings in storage, most of which have never been exhibited. The reason is that to date the paintings were not thought to have any great artistic or cultural-historical value. Which is quite wrong, Van der Poel concludes, having made an inventory and a detailed examination of the works, and having spoken with family members of some of the original owners of these export paintings.

Unusual perspectives and bright colours

Van der Poel points out the cultural-historical value of these works. ‘Many of the paintings represent a specific time and place, about which the images give a wealth of information. The paintings also say something about Chinese and Western art conventions of the time. They had some distinctive traits, such as unusual perspectives, that buyers admired. In the course of the nineteenth century the colours – particularly of flora and fauna – became ever brighter and more unnatural. And, make no mistake, the works were not only produced by minor local artists, but also in the workshops of Chinese master painters.’ Van der Poel also concluded that the paintings are part of the Dutch heritage. ‘Many works have been handed on within families from generation to generation; there are some highly interesting stories behind them that come to light when a cultural biography of the works is being written. These stor[i]es need to be preserved.’

Plea from the heart

Van der Poel regards her dissertation as a plea from the heart to museums: put these works on display so that the public can view them! This could be by actually exhibiting them in museums and galleries, or it could equally mean making them accessible online. She is more than willing to act as torch bearer for export artworks in the Netherlands. ‘I could carry on with this subject until my dying day. A lot more research could be done on the original owners of the paintings: who were they, what role did the paintings play in their lives, and how were the paintings valued over the course of their lives?’ Van der Poel also hopes, depending on available subsidies, to start a restoration project shortly and to organise an exhibition of several paintings. Developing a user-friendly digital image bank is also high on her wish list.

Rosalien van der Poel studied art history in Leiden between 2001 and 2008. She carried out her PhD research in parallel with her regular job as Head of Cabinet at Leiden University. She is also coordinator of the Leiden Asia Year that will be taking place throughout 2017.

Dutch ship, Chinese export painting

Chinese elephants saved from reservoir


This video says about itself:

Wild elephants rescued from reservoir in SW China

12 October 2016

Three wild Asian elephants, two adults and a baby, were trapped in a reservoir in southwest China’s Yunnan Province for more than two days, which may cause them to choke on the water and die from hunger.

Rescuers tried many ways and finally managed to save these endangered animals on Tuesday by digging out a path from one side of the pond.

Dutch NOS TV writes today about this (translated):

Over two days, they were stuck in a five-meter deep tank: two wild adult elephants and a baby elephant. Foresters found the animals in south[western] China after getting information from locals, but could not immediately launch a rescue operation because of heavy rains.

Probably the baby elephant first fell in a tank full of water and its parents then fell in a rescue attempt. Images on Chinese state TV show how other elephants ran around the edge of the reservoir. In order to save the trapped animals, the other elephants first had to be driven away with firecrackers.

Eventually, rescue workers with a backhoe demolished the wall of the tank, and the elephants could get out.

23 baby giant pandas, video


This video from China says about itself:

23 Baby Pandas Make Debut at southwest China Breeding Base

29 sep. 2016

Twenty-three giant panda cubs made their public debut at a panda base in southwest China’s Chengdu City on Thursday, offering the cutest scene one can imagine.

The baby pandas, aged one to four months, were all born at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding this year.

“I think this is just about the cutest thing in the entire world. I never imagine there will be so many baby pandas in one place,” said a U.S. tourist named Aaron.

“I thought they were toys because they were lying there motionless. Then I realized they were cute baby pandas,” said Zheng Shuo, a tourist from central China’s Hunan Province.

This year, experts from the base also witnessed the birth of another four pandas overseas, raising the total number of the base’s newborn pandas to 27, a rare record since the establishment of the base.

The number of this year’s newborn pandas at the base has almost doubled that last year. Experts attribute this to the improvement in breeding technology.

“We used to mate the pandas by observing their behaviors to decide the timing for mating. But now we combine behavior observation with endocrine analysis to get more accurate timing, thus ensuring a fairly high breeding rate,” said Wu Kongju, animal management director at the base.

What’s more, among the 27 newborn pandas there are 10 pairs of twins, accounting for 74 percent of the total.

Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the base has bred 176 giant pandas, the world’s largest artificially-bred giant panda population.

Read more here.