Chinoiserie and Japonisme: Continuity or Rupture?

Professor Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University

Co-presented by the Sydney Intellectual History Network and China Studies Centre


10 March, 2015

In traditional narratives of the Western engagement with Far-Eastern art, eighteenth-century Chinoiserie and nineteenth-century Japonism are seen as different episodes, separated not only by time but also by degree of intensity and understanding. Michael Sullivan, one of the originators of this narrative (The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art, 1973), contrast the “flirtation with the Orient” of Chinoiserie with the “real understanding of Oriental art” that, he argues, began during the last third of the nineteenth century with Japonisme and culminated in the twentieth century in the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Chinoiserie had to degenerate and die, following Sullivan, before Japonisme could be born.

For Sullivan’s narrative, I hope to substitute a more nuanced and complex one that underplays rupture but acknowledges that attitudes towards the Far East and Far-Eastern art evolved and changed in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, based on, among other factors, political developments and changing international relations, altering possibilities of Asian travel; evolving patterns of collecting; and the concept of the “period eye.”

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Professor Petra ten-Doesschate Chu

Professor Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies in Museum Professions at Seton Hall University, is a renowned expert on nineteenth-century European art. She has published several books on Gustave Courbet and is author of the leading survey of nineteenth-century European art.

She is visiting Australia as the recipient of an International Research Collaboration Award from the University of Sydney, and will be based in Sydney from 21 February and 21 March 2015, working with Professor Jennifer Milam on a project entitled ‘The Other Orient’.