Chinese Object Study Workshops is a program that provides graduate students in Chinese art history with an immersive experience in the study of the object. The workshops help participants develop the skills necessary for working with objects, introduce them to conservation issues not readily encountered in typical graduate art history curricula, and familiarize them with important American museum collections.
Participants in each workshop spend the week engaged in intensive object study, discussion, and research with a small group of other graduate students, two faculty members, and curators and conservators from the host museum. Participants are required to complete assigned reading in advance of the workshop. Afterward, they are expected to complete a potentially publishable research project based on an object or objects they encountered.
The program is open to students enrolled in a graduate art history program (at the time that the workshop is held) at a North American or European university and pursuing a graduate degree in Chinese art. Graduate students from other art history-related programs and/or working closely with Chinese art objects are also welcome to apply. Applicants may be of any nationality and may apply for more than one workshop. A transportation stipend, lodging, and some meal support will be provided.
Workshop One: Chinese Objects Outside of China
Host: Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library
- Vimalin Rujivacharakul, University of Delaware
- Robert Mintz, Asian Art Museum
- with Winterthur Conservation and Curatorial Staff
Date: Monday–Friday, June 5–9, 2017
This workshop examines the illusive genre of “Chinese export objects.” From the late seventeenth to early twentieth century, more than 80 percent of objects from China collected around the world belong to this genre. Despite their worldwide abundance, such objects remain understudied. They are often labeled as decorative art or traded objects, and they are seldom included in the history of Chinese art. Categorizing these heterodox Chinese objects may therefore be challenging even to well-trained graduates in this field. This weeklong workshop draws on the depth of Winterthur’s collections and its world-class conservation labs. It focuses on the close examination of these objects and how best to understand them in relation to global art history and Chinese art.
Workshop Two: Chinese Buddhist Art
Host: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Katherine Tsiang, University of Chicago
- Wei-Cheng Lin, University of Chicago
- Colin Mackenzie, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Date: Monday–Friday, August 28-September 1, 2017
The introduction of Buddhism to China in the early centuries CE resulted in the richest and longest tradition of Buddhist art production in Asia. This workshop is based on the extensive collection of Chinese Buddhist art now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The collections range from sculpture in stone, bronze, wood, and lacquer to ceramics, mural painting, and architectural material from temple buildings, and they include pieces from famous Buddhist cave temples. Students are introduced to viewing works closely and learn how to look at Buddhist objects from interrelated perspectives: chronology, period style and modes of production, production materials, former/original location (if known), and religious and cultural contexts. The significance of inscriptions is also explored. Most of the workshop sessions take place in the galleries where the objects are on display. The group can then survey the range of sculptural types, view them in juxtaposition with each other, and highlight visual comparisons and differences. Smaller pieces are examined in the viewing room.
Workshop One: Early Chinese Paintings
Host: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Hui-shu Lee, University of California, Los Angeles
- Richard Vinograd, Stanford University
- Nancy Berliner, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Richard Barnhart, Yale University (Emeritus)
Dates: Monday-Friday, June 13-17, 2016
Explore early Chinese paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Drawing from the MFA’s rich collection of works attributed to the Song and Yuan and earlier eras, the workshop will consider the intertwined procedures of connoisseurship and attribution studies, conservation and technical studies, object-driven scholarship, collecting history, canon formation (and deconstruction), and art historical writing. Students will consider works of established historiographical importance as well as paintings connected to emerging concerns in recent art historical writing, such as women and gender, Daoist religious art, word/text/poetry-and-image relationships, interregional networks of Buddhist art exchange, and images and imaginaries of ethnic others.
Workshop Two: Chinese Calligraphy
Host: Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Robert Harrist Jr., Columbia University
- Hui-Wen Lu, National Taiwan University
- Joe Scheier-Dolberg, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dates: Monday-Friday, August 29-September 2, 2016
Investigate works of Chinese calligraphy and related paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through close study of objects, students will learn to read signatures, inscriptions, and seals and to understand the important ways in which writing informs the aesthetic, historical, and expressive dimensions of Chinese art. Instructors will emphasize issues in connoisseurship, materials, techniques, and determining authenticity. In addition to developing basic skills of analyzing and describing calligraphy, students will explore the role of writing in works that combine texts and images. The workshop also will consider Chinese calligraphy in relation to other traditions of writing as a fine art represented in the museum’s collections.
Workshop One: On Chinese Porcelain
Host: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
- Patricia Berger, University of California, Berkeley
- Li He, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (AAMSF)
- Ellen Huang, University of San Francisco
Dates: Monday-Friday, June 8-12, 2015
This workshop will address the marginalization of Chinese ceramics in art historical scholarship, and encourage object-based research on ceramics as artifacts of visual and material culture. Drawing upon the rich Chinese ceramic collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (AAMSF), the workshop will provide students a basic understanding of the evolution of ceramic manufacture, the technical and social aspects of Chinese ceramic production, the forms and decoration of Chinese ceramics, and the political and cultural aspects of consumption, particularly of porcelain made at Jingdezhen in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Additionally, the AAMSF’s West Asian and Southeast Asian ceramic collections and other San Francisco collections will allow for the consideration of the global distribution of Chinese ceramics and the interrelationships it engendered.
Workshop Two: Chinese Art of the 17th Century
Host: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Kathleen Ryor, Carleton College
- Bruce Rusk, University of British Columbia
- Stephen Little, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Dates: Monday-Friday, August 24-28, 2015
The workshop will highlight the art that emerged in the traumatic yet creative period at the turn of Ming and Qing dynasties. Using LACMA’s permanent Chinese art collection as well as the 17th century paintings from the Jung Ying Tsao Collection (on long-term loan at LACMA), the workshop will focus on the close examination of Chinese painting and17th century three-dimensional works of art. In the aspect of determining an authentic Chinese painting, special attention will be given to artists whose works are often copied and forged, as well as to materials, techniques and collectors’ seals and inscriptions. Students will also learn how to use the study of different materials and types of artworks to enrich their understanding of a given period’s art, culture, and economic, political, and social history. The week long workshop will also provide an introduction to the research environment of the museum, and insights into the curatorial profession.
Workshop One: Seeing Chinese Paintings
Host: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.
- Jonathan Hay, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU
- Colin Mackenzie, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Dates:Monday–Friday, June 9–13, 2014
This workshop concentrated on skills of seeing that precede comparison. Specifically, the workshop focused on two skills that can be taught and developed only in the presence of the paintings themselves. The first skill is discerning the full range of an artist’s craft—technical, formal, and conceptual—as seen in an individual painting, with particular emphasis on reconstructing the visual and material thinking behind the painting’s creation. The second, equally necessary skill is that of articulating what has been discerned in clear language. Students practiced these two skills using a wide variety of paintings belonging to different historical periods and artistic traditions in the Nelson-Atkins collection.
Workshop Two: Zhe School Painting
Host: Freer|Sackler Galleries, Washington, DC
- Kathleen Ryor, Carleton College
- Jennifer Purtle, University of Toronto
- Stephen Allee, Freer|Sackler Galleries
Dates:Monday–Friday, August 25–29, 2014
This workshop introduced object-oriented approaches to Chinese painting by examining works of the so-called Zhe School, court and professional painters of the Ming dynasty working in styles of the Song academy. The Freer has one of the world’s leading collections of Zhe School paintings (approx. 130–40 works). The properties of Zhe School paintings make them perfect for learning sophisticated visual analysis, including dating works on the basis of signatures and seals, style, and format. Their stylistic relationships to earlier works and to literati paintings (despite criticism that denies this relationship) and the fact that they include many problematic works make Zhe School paintings an ideal subject for developing skills essential to understanding larger connoisseurial problems of Chinese paintings.
Workshop One: Chinese Bronzes
Host: Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution
- Jenny Fung-Suk So, Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Guolong Lai, University of Florida
- Keith Wilson, Freer|Sackler
Dates:Monday–Friday, June 3–7, 2013
The collection of ancient Chinese bronzes in the Freer and Sackler Galleries was at the center of this workshop, designed to give students an understanding of different types of bronzes, methods of manufacture, stylistic evolution and iconography, and inscriptions. The religious and social significance, role of antiquarianism, connoisseurship, and collecting history in the study of archaic bronzes was also considered.
Emphasis was placed on close observation of the bronze objects so that students would learn how to look and understand what they are seeing. Workshop participants were also exposed to technical analysis of Chinese bronzes in the Freer|Sackler Department of Conservation and Scientific Research.
Workshop Two: Writing and Chinese Art
Host: Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Qianshen Bai, Boston University
- Peter Sturman, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Maxwell Hearn, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dates:Monday–Friday, August 26–30, 2013
Drawn from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Chinese collections, a range of calligraphy and classical paintings that incorporate textual elements introduced students to various approaches to Chinese writing. The workshop covered topics such as reading different calligraphic forms (scripts), calligraphy as an art historical subject, and the role of writing in larger text-image programs. Through close visual analysis of the objects, students became better well equipped to read signatures, inscriptions, and seals, and to understand the important ways in which writing informs the aesthetic, historical, and expressive dimensions of objects. Emphasis was also given to issues in connoisseurship, exploring materials, techniques, and questions of authenticity.