To lose the daily Midi? : Western influences in Far Eastern painting

Wednesday 9 January 2019: Losing the daily lunch? : IWestern influences in Far Eastern painting lecture by Mael Bellec, chief curator at the Cernuschi Museum.

The title of the conference alludes to a quote from Victor Segalen in which the latter explains how his experience in a foreign environment had allowed him to find himself. Mael Bellec proposes the opposite approach, that of seeing how in China, Japan and Korea, Asian cultures have lost their daily lunch in the field of plastic arts in contact with Western culture, to see what will be integrated by the continent. Asian, and what will be adapted according to the cultural specificities of each country.

It is useful to remember that contacts between Asia and the West date back to Antiquity via the "Silk Road". Greco-Roman models will be adapted in China as well as in Japan, where examples of Greco-Latin inspiration can be found in the eighth century. One of the important moments of contact with the West occurs under the Yuan (1279-1368). Trade intensified and political stability in the empire allowed the caravans to have safe roads. The Fonthill vase, which is Qingbai-type porcelain, produced in the 1300s, arrives in Europe through an embassy encountered by Louis Ier of Hungary (1326-1382), shortly after. Objects travel just like people: Marco Polo (1254-1324) is a good example. We know that an Italian community lived in Yangzhou. The tombstone (1342) of the daughter of an Italian merchant presents a Catholic subject (Virgin, Saint Catherine, etc.) treated in a Chinese fashion.
Throughout the 17e and 18e centuries, contacts between the West and the Asian countries are intensifying again and there is a transcontinental phenomenon. The linear perspective is more or less known in Asia thanks to works imported by the Jesuits. Jiao Bingzhen (active 1689-1726) is the first Chinese artist to integrate linear perspective and shadow rendering to suggest volume. A representation of a Korean royal ceremony of 1760 uses a fictional linear perspective which, in addition, is adopted only for a part of the painting. A Torii Kiyotada print (1615-1868), dated 1732, shows the interior of a theater in a perfect linear perspective. The impression is that you are really inside the room. Japanese artists are enthusiastic, in the 1740 years, for all optical effects (dark room, magnifying glass, etc.).

Fonthill vase. Qingbai porcelain. To 1300.

Jia Bingshen. Page of an album of landscapes. Ink on paper.

Torii Kiyotada. Danjuro II playing Shibaraku at Ishimura Theater. 1738. Polychrome print.

These contacts with the West are made in a direct way through the presence of religious orders but also merchants who crisscross the oceans. This is the first time that all cultures are connected across the entire globe. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), invited in 1601 to the imperial court, strengthens the presence of the Jesuits in China. The latter try to evangelize the court while the Dominicans evangelize the people. But if the Jesuits only obtain partial results, they are the only ones whose impact on Chinese culture can be traced. In fact, the emperor is interested not in the religious or artistic skills of the Jesuits, but in their mathematical and astronomical skills. They will be used to calculate the dates of rituals that became problematic at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and at the beginning of the Qing (1644-1912). Once introduced to the court, the Jesuits will bring all their knowledge including their mastery in the field of images and representation. A portrait of Kangxi reading may have been made by Giovanni Gherardini (1655-1723). This painter, encouraged by the Jesuit Father, Joachim Bouvet, accompanies him to China because the emperor asked him to bring in quality artists; he will stay there for five years. Welcomed by Kangxi in 1698, he seems to have fascinated him with his portraits and his mastery of linear perspective. The work presents lines of leaks that land on the book held by the emperor, implying that he is a scholar. These portraits will be appreciated for portraying Chinese power and propagating a positive image. Indeed, being foreigners, the Qing emperors will have to find the balance between the warrior dimension and the literate dimension of power. They will thus multiply the images to affirm these two aspects. The portrait of Kangxi also presents a directional lighting which comes from the right of the sovereign: this creates shadows on the face and on the furniture but does not affect the clothes.
Evangelization will lead to the production of images locally because imports are not enough to feed demand. In 1590, Giovanni Niccolò (1560-1626) founded in Japan, in Nagasaki, the "Seminar of painters" which remained in operation for three decades before being banned from the archipelago, becoming the largest school of Western painting in Asia. . This is the time of art Namban (Southern barbarians) that will last until 1614, time of persecution of Christians. An artwork, St. Dominic, St. Lawrence and St. Catherine, which is known to have been confiscated in Nagasaki at that time, is a good example of this first art Namban. The work that served as a model was captured at the same time and is found in Japanese collections. The difference between the copy and the original is particularly noticeable in the treatment of faces that are whiter and without relief in the Japanese version.

Emperor Kangxi reading. Beginning of 18e s. Color on silk.

Meng Yongguang. Portrait of Kim Yuk. 1643-44. Ink and colors on silk.

Hanegawa Tōei. Procession of a Korean Embassy. To 1748. Ink, colors and gold leaf on paper.

There were also indirect contacts, especially for Korea. The country regularly sends embassies to China and senior officials in contact with G. Gheradini's trompe-l'oeil will bring back to Korea works imported to China or produced there. A Korean notable, Kim Yuk (1580-1658), asked a Chinese artist, Meng Yongguang, to paint his portrait around 1643-1644. This portrait exhibits the characteristics of an art that has been in contact with Western painting.
The Korean prince, Sohyeon (1612-1645), taken captive following a Manchu raid in 1636, returns to Korea, in 1645, accompanied by Meng Yongguang who will remain there for three years. The prince also brings back books and prints (scientific and religious). Unfortunately, only a catalog testifies. The prince having died in 1645, it seems that a stop has been given to the introduction of Western art. Contacts resumed at 18e s. and we know from the texts that the Korean emissaries who went to China, returned with Western-style paintings that they hung in the main room of their residence.
Another example of indirect contact is seen in Japan through the integration of Western culture into Korean culture. Korean embassies that regularly came to Edo were considered an event in the Japanese art community because it was a way to learn about the latest fashions. Artists accompanied these embassies and were to produce paintings throughout.  Lprocession of a Korean Embassy by Hanegawa Toei (active 1735-1750) is famous for its use of perspective.
Once the models arrive in Asia, it remains to be seen how they spread and how they are adapted or rejected.
In China, broadcasting is done from the courtyard. Painters from different regions traveled to Beijing and worked for a time in the capital. With these movements of artists, models will spread, especially in Suzhou, a city that has produced many scholars and great painters. These exchanges will allow the production of high quality prints. The one appearing One hundred children by Yungu and Zhang Xingzhu, dating from 1743, uses an approximate linear perspective. Although this is a woodcut, the processing gives the impression of a copper engraving with the use of fine lines, texturing and shading effects. If the work in its form is influenced by Western images, the theme - the implicit wish to have a large number of offspring - remains completely Chinese. Shen Nanpin (1682-1760), a painter of flowers and birds, went to Nagasaki in 1731 and taught painting there for two years. His work offers a realistic rendering of nature where Western influence emerges with texture effects and shading to render volumes. This style will influence a number of Japanese artists.
The prints are another mode of diffusion and Cheng Dayue (1549-1616?) Will resume and copy a print that will be included in a book published at the beginning of 17e s., Ink garden of the Cheng family. The original, a copper engraving, has been transposed into a woodcut. The book, which is intended as a collector's guide, contains two religious subjects that are probably perceived as exotic. An engraving by Odano Naotake (1749-1780) is obviously inspired by a book of Western anatomy. Indeed this illustrious artist Kaitai shinsho, in 1774, the first work in Japanese of medicine and anatomy translates dutch. This was made possible by the lifting, in 1720, of the ban on the importation of Western books.

Yungu, Zhang Xingzhu. One hundred children. 1743. Polychrome print.

Odano Naotake. Kaitai Shinsho. 1774. Woodcut.

Foreign emperors and kings on horseback. Detail of a screen. 1610. Ink, colors and gold on paper.

Prints have greatly contributed to evangelization and one can find images published locally in numerous copies, directly inspired by works distributed by the Jesuits but adapted for a Chinese audience. Among these cultural transfers, misunderstandings are created: the Virgin and Child is perceived by the faithful as a representation of Guanyin and certain orders will remove these images from places of worship.
A Japanese screen featuring kings on horseback is directly inspired by a 1607 Dutch map of kings and emperors in small vignettes. The map was copied in full on a screen for the shogunal family who offered it to the imperial family. The kings and emperors have some differences from the vignettes and emphasize the fact that the artist mastered the techniques well by creating shortcuts and using shadows and volumes. However the work corresponds perfectly to the Japanese taste with its gold background quite in the spirit Namban.

Wang Zheng and Johann Schreck, Yuanxi qiqi tushuo luzui (Illustrations and explanations of wonderful machines). 1627.Xylogravure.

Yun Duseo. Self-portrait. Beginning of 18e s. Ink and colors on paper.

Satake Shozan. Lizard in bottle. To 1779. Ink and colors on paper.

Byeon Sangbyeok. Cats and sparrows. Ink and colors on silk.

The scientific and technical works have played an extremely important role because they have been one of the main vectors of the assimilation of foreign models. When linear perspective enters China and Japan, it is probably more like a technique than a mode of artistic representation. Nian Xiyao (1671-1738), Director of Jingdezhen Furnaces, Publishes a Perspective Treatise Shixue in 1735. A book, the result of the collaboration between Wang Zheng and a Jesuit, Johann Schreck, Yuanxi qiqi tushuo luzui (Illustrations and Explanations of Wonderful Machines) is the first Chinese translation of a work presenting the mechanics and construction of Western machines in China. This craze for technical culture is based on new intellectual trends pre-existing in China, in particular neo-Confucianism which emphasizes the fact that we must be able to access the principle of things through the practical observation of the world around us. . This more pragmatic current will also spread to Japan and Korea. This approach leads painters to be more attentive to their environment. Satake Shozan (1748-1785), school painter Ranga influenced by the Dutch, painted a bottled lizard in Three sketchbooks (1779) which is a true study from nature. In addition, in the "scientific" notice written next to it, the artist specifies where the specimen comes from, by whom it was imported, etc. Yun Duseo (1668-1715), painter and brilliant intellectual of the late Joseon period, produced a self-portrait that breaks with Korean tradition: the face, which seems to float on the page, is slightly shaded to accentuate its expression, making it more realistic. Byeon Sangbyeok (1730 -?), An artist famous for his paintings of cats and birds, uses shading to render volumes and textures.

Gang Sehwang. The nine curves of the river in the Wu Yi Mountains. 1713-1753. Ink and colors on paper.

Yi_Eungrok (1808-1874). Chaekgeori. Detail of a screen. Ink and colors on paper. © Asian Art Museum San Francisco.

The naturalistic approach of painting is also reflected in the landscapes depicting the places as they actually exist. The Lake landscape by Satake Shozan, which seems an appropriation of a Western model, uses shadows in a composition which gives an impression of depth and reflections in the water. These three elements are found almost systematically in Japanese paintings that refer to Western culture. The nine curves of the river in the Wu Yi Mountains by Gang Sehwang (1713-1791), Korean painter and scholar, shows a totally realistic landscape with a unified viewpoint and the artist has even annotated topographical indications.
A reinterpretation of a work attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), Cabinet of treasures, which shows a cabinet of curiosity on the Western model, will become in Korea a major theme of chaekgeori, literally "books and objects". This theme, used in court painting as well as in popular culture, will be used to adorn screens in particular.
Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) commissioned the best artists of the Imperial Academy of Painting to decorate his palaces with illusionist paintings of architecture, gardens, people and distant places. An example, Scenic illusion of the purest jade boudoir (1775) by Wang Youxue and Yao Wenhan, shows a piece in a linear perspective. In addition to the depth effect, there is a numbers references to Western culture such as the transparency of a window and the technique of painted glass. However, the theme of concubines and their offspring remains completely Chinese with all its auspicious symbolism. Only the faces remain fairly flat; indeed, the use of shading in portraits remains timid in China and Korea because it was shocking by giving an impression of “dirt”.
Contacts with the West are also sensitive in the characterization of individuals. A painting by Shiba Kōkan (1747-1818), Meeting between East, West and China represents a Chinese, a Japanese and a Westerner, each recognizable by his costume, his hairstyle and his face. In the background, representatives of the three countries are working together to put out a fire.

Wang Youxue and Yao Wenhan. Scenic illusion of the purest jade boudoir.1775. Ink and colors on silk.

Shiba Kōkan. Meeting between East, West and China. Ink and colors on paper.

Ye Xin. Mount Baihe. 1654-55. Ink and colors on paper. © Metropolitan Museum.

In conclusion, these Western influences end up being so well integrated by artists that they are difficult to detect. The assimilation of the models will be determined by the diffusion circuits, the type of network from which they are diffused but also by the fact that the receiving cultures know social and cultural transformations and are ready to welcome them. Interest in this new vocabulary is based on a broader interest in the immediate environment and concrete approaches.

Was there any posterity to this integration? First in Japan where the resumption of the linear perspective occurs naturally at the 19e s. and in Korea, despite a stop during the persecution of Christians, where the notions were sufficiently anchored that, at the end of the 19e s., they are reactivated very quickly. In China, where there is real continuity in the assimilation of models, the identification of these influences is more difficult.


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