British collectors of paintings in China at the end of the nineteenth century

Submitted by James Miller on Sun, 02/22/2009 - 13:29
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TitleBritish collectors of paintings in China at the end of the nineteenth century
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsLightfoot, S.
JournalApollo (London, England)
Date Published2001
ISBN Number0003-6536
KeywordsBritish -- China, Collectors and collecting -- China -- 19th century, Painting, Chinese -- Collections

A - discussion of British collectors of painting in China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Few British subjects in China in the 19th century chose to collect paintings, perhaps because of the complex nature of the subject. Figurative works in China consisted of Buddhist images or Chinese Beauties, which were not calculated to appeal to Europeans. There were few realistic landscapes, for the Chinese tradition despised literal representation. Westerners collecting painting in China around 1880 apparently began their collections with figurative bird and flower paintings, and only as they grew in knowledge did they venture to collect what the Chinese truly prized--literati landscape paintings. To read such paintings, collectors would have had to be familiar with the philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The writer goes on to examine how several British collectors, particularly Sir James Stewart Lockhart, formed their collections.