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Chinese Art in Europe - Assignment Example

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Four pieces recently on display in the National Museum of China demonstrate these contradicting desires, creating Chinese-inspired European art that often fails to capture Chinese aesthetic qualities. The desire to copy and imitate Chinese art in European art is a curious one: for much of European history Europe had been relatively assured of cultural superiority over others, especially non-Christian peoples. With China, however, something different seems to have taken place. European missionaries seemed to largely consider Chinese materially and culturally at least Europe’s equal, and possibly Europe’s “superior” (Mungello 85). This gave the Europeans the impulse to copy Chinese art. Furthermore, it was tempting for Europeans to attempt to form parallels between Chinese society and European society in order to bolster their own European institutions, such as the French Empire (Thomas 2). These forces led to an effort by European artists to imitate Chinese style. Yet much of Chinese art was misunderstood by Europeans, or understood solely from their world view (Thomas 1). Many pieces of art in the National Museum demonstrate the desire to fit China into a European world view. The “Cup with Kinrade Decorations and German Gilded Silver Mounts,” for instance, features a highly ornate Chinese cup positioned on a gilded German mount, making the whole piece appear something like a massive chalice. Though the style of the bowl and the cup clearly clash fairly significantly, it is easy to see the European attempt to integrate Chinese art into a European formation, both making it part of something clearly European (an ornate chalice) and combining its style with European style. The Coffee Pot with Pierced Outer Wall, a later piece, shows a more genuine desire of complete imitation, possibly indicating a move away from stress about integrating Chinese culture with European that might have been associated with Europe’s ability to exert forms of colonial control on China (Thomas 17). While clearly there was a significant attempt to draw China closer to Europe, and form parallels between Chinese society and European, this does not change the fact that Europeans still showed an intense need to exoticize Chinese art and people. Joachim Kandler’s Sweetmeat Stand and Johan Lanz’s Inkstand with Exotic Figurines both demonstrate this desire to focus on the exoticness of China. Neither features a particularly Chinese style, both being highly ornate, even opulent in a rococo style, though the sweetmeat stand does preserve a few touches of Chinese authenticity (the lilies seem to have a Chinese touch about them). Instead, the focus of each work is on the figures, who are highly stylized in imagined Chinese dress. Each character features a highly ornate conical hat, clearly something Europeans were already associating with China at this point, along with robes of different sorts that do not seem to really bare a great deal of resemblance to Chinese dress. The clothing, however, is all clearly different from European clothing. The characters themselves are similarly stylized, with overwrought Chinese features. In these pieces, it is clear that the desire to express or imitate Chinese attributes through European art ...Show more
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Your Name Prof’s Name Date Chinese Art in Europe China and Europe were, for centuries, widely separated by trade gulfs that were nearly insurmountable, and thus had little artistic or cultural exchange. Starting in the 16th century, however, this began to change as European missionaries entered China and more objects of Chinese origin making it to Europe…
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