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The Plattsburgh State Art Museum presents a unique educational exhibition
Chinese Paintings from the Henricksen Collection
art of the Qing Dynasty, 1644 -1911
Image, detail from Merchant Ship in Peril, 1688, Lu Xue
Detail: Merchant Ship in Peril, 1688, Lu Xue
Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper, 175 x 93 cm.
Inscription: Sketched in the wuzhen year (1688) in the beginning of Autumn; Haishan, Lu Xue.
February 5 - April 3, 2005

Burke Gallery
Myers Fine Arts Building
Open Daily, Noon to 4 pm

This exhibition was organized and catalogued by Sewall Oertling. On loan from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ellen B. Avril, Curator, Asian Art.

This event is sponsored by Plattsburgh State Art Museum, Student Association, College Foundation, and College Auxiliary Services.

All Images courtesy of Digital Access Project:
Herbert F. Johnson Museum Photography
Matthew Ferrari and Michael Holobosky

Image, Ink Prunus, Shen Xiang c. 1530 - 1580
Ink Prunus, Shen Xiang c. 1530 - 1580
Hanging scroll, ink on silk, 109.5 x 35.6 cm
In the mid 1950's when I first began to work in the expanding New York City art market, great bodies of material were arriving from different eras and locations, not the least of which was the orient. C.T.Liu., Carlebach, Frank Caro, JT Tai & Co., all had a certain mandarin presence in the respect they brought to a conversation or authentication. Everything given serious consideration in Chinese Art, with the exception of Ch'ien Liug, was at least Sung and Ming, and usually Tang, Han, or Eastern or Western Zhour. As Dr Oertling says in the introduction, Qing Dynasty painting was virtually ignored.

On a visit to the Sackler Museum, Harvard, during the early 1980's, I came upon a large exhibition of Qing Dynasty art -- mainly painting. It was given the same careful attention previously reserved for earlier material and also was observed with a certain modernist aesthetic. Late 19th century and early 20th century was distinctly post traditional and pre-modernist. Obviously, a sea change was taking place in Chinese art history, responding to the great social and political events of the mid century. It is, therefore, with great excitement that we present this exhibition as not only a aesthetic phenomenon, but as a cultural indicator of a larger change in Chinese society and also in world interactions.

-Edward R. Brohel

Image, Landscape after Li Tang, Li Yin, Hanging Scroll
Landscape after Li Tang, Li Yin
Hanging Scroll, 18th cen. ink on silk, 151.5 x 40.1 cm.
It has been my pleasure to organize this exhibition of Chinese paintings from the collection of Rodney "Pete" and Marge Henricksen of Skaneateles, New York. The collection was shown at Cornell University, (Johnson Museum of Art), in the Fall of 2002 and at the State University of New York at Oswego, (Tyler Art Gallery), in the Spring of 2003. There are thirty-two paintings, most from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), with a few works from the Ming and the Republic.

Some may be familiar with recent exhibitions and research in Chinese painting of the last dynasty. Nevertheless, as a quick synopsis I would note that Qing Dynasty painting, almost ignored before 1970, is now the most active area in later Chinese art. Beginning with the exhibition of paintings by Wang Hui and other early Qing orthodox masters in the Morse collection, and continuing with shows organized by Ju-hsi Chou and Claudia Brown, interest in this area has blossomed.(1) The catalogs and publications that accompanied these exhibitions throw light on new artists,investigate new approaches to painting, and define new relationships between known painters. It was a time when Chinese artists, from the village painter to the scholar-official, bore as inspiration and burden the full weight of a tradition that, while ancient and conservative, could still bring forth new ideas and styles. In 2002, the Metropolitan Museum held a special showing of Qing painting from its vast collection. The paintings in the present exhibition, therefore, come on a crest of interest in this area. They make no claim to compete with the Metropolitan exhibition; rather they are works by lesser known, but still very competent artists. They afford a glimpse at the broad spectrum of the styles current during the last four centuries, from the high art of the Orthodox school, through a variety of eclectic landscapes, to bird and flower painting, and to figure painting.

The Henricksen collection was formed in Japan in the 1960s and early 1970s, a time and place of extraordinary opportunity for collecting. The stories that Marge and Pete Henricksen tell of their forays into the antique shops and dealer markets are classics. Assembling the collection was not, however, simply due to chance or luck, rather it is a record of the passion two people had for collecting works that resonated with their tastes and interests. Others who were in Japan at the same time might have gone to shop once a month; Marge and Pete went every week-for a decade. The Henricksens got to know the dealers and establish a rapport with them. Eventually they were allowed to go to the antique dealers' own markets, where they watched and participated in the bargaining and swapping that went on. The constant exercise of judgment in matters of taste allowed the collection to grow in quality and number, and the result is before you. To have found such a collection in a small town in upstate New York is truly one of those miraculous events that one hears of only is fairy tales...or better, in the memoirs so some nineteenth-century world traveler.

Creating categories for paintings of the era is difficult. The theoretical structures built by traditional Chinese scholarship have proved so persuasive and valuable that only a few writers have warily moved away from them. These structures (and I refer to the orthodox and the individualist schools) account for only a few major painters and their followers, and most of the rest are loosely gathered in regional groupings, which, on close examination, usually fail to yield meaningful information. Contemporary discussions of the eighteenth-century Yangzhou school and the nineteenth-century Shanghai school point out that the artists shared neither style, nor chronology, and that often they did not even spend much time in the city with which they are associated. Another factor that complicates any discussion is the embarrassing wealth of material from this era. There are, by a rough estimate, 12,000 names of Qing artists listed in a standard publication of names and pen names, or close to 50 names a year over the life of the dynasty. Many will probably never be identified, and despite the comprehensive nature of this work, hundreds of other artists-especially those living at the end of the dynasty and into the twentieth centurywere not listed. Osvald Sirén, in the only English language volume that attempts a comprehensive listing of Qing artists, records a bit more than 650 artists whose works he actually found. Several of the artists in this exhibition do not appear in Sirén’s lists, and it is clear that work still needs to be done in Qing painting.

-Sewall Oertling

1. Roderick Whitfield, In Pursuit of Antiquity: Chinese Paintings of the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Morse( Princeton, 1969). The history of collecting in the US is the subject of Claudia Brown's introductory essay in Ju-hsi Chou's, Scent of Ink; The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting (Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 1994).

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