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First Annual Distinguished Lecture in Chinese Art: The Cleveland Museum of Art

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A lecture titled, “How to Read Chinese Paintings” was presented by Mr. Maxwell K. Hearn, who is the Douglas Dillon Chairman of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he has worked since he graduated from College.  “His great love for China and Chinese art is evident in his books, exhibitions, lectures, teaching and the tours he contributes to benefit the Shul of New York”.

This lecture was made possible by the Pauline and Joseph Degenfelder Endowment Fund.  The Chinese way of appreciating a painting is often expressed by the word du Hua, “to read a painting”.  How does a person do that?  “Because art is a visual language, words alone cannot adequately convey its expressive dimension.”  Mr. Hearn has visually analyzed selected paintings and calligraphies for the encyclopedic collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and explained what makes each a wonderful masterpiece.

“Spanning more than a thousand years, from the eighth through the seventeenth century, the subjects represented are particularly wide-ranging:  Landscapes, flower, birds, figures, religious subjects, and calligraphies.  All illuminate the main goal of every Chinese artist: to capture not only the outer appearance of a subject, but also its inner essence.  Numerous large color details, accompanied by informative captions, allow the reader to delve further into the significant aspects of each work”.

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It becomes evident that the text and various illustrations gradually reveal many of the major themes and distinct characteristics of Chinese painting.  To “read” these works is to enter a dialogue with the past. “Slowly perusing a scroll or album, one shares an intimate experience that has been repeated over the centuries. And it is through such reading that meaning is gradually revealed.”  “I discovered the Asian Art by walking through a museum, Mr. Hearn said.  I think people go to Asian museums because they want to see Asian art.  But I am counting on someone coming into the Met because he wants to see Greek or Egyptian sculpture, and getting lost, and finding himself in the Indian painting gallery and thinking, “what is this”?  Connection made.  Big change.

Speaking about the various large color details, accompanied by informative captions, allow the reader to delve into the most significant aspect of each work. However, it has become clear that form the early 1970s to the late 90s, under the direction of Art historian Wen Fong, who was Mr. Hearn’s mentor, “a room of sculpture gradually and laboriously turned into 50 galleries. Thanks to the beneficence of a generation of gift-giving New York collectors, a bunch of pots became many thousands of objects representing every major Asian culture. And thanks to the prestige its new Asian wing brought, the Met got some huge Asian Loan shows.”

“Private collections of the kind that came to the Met can no longer be assembled in the West. China and India, now economic colossi, have a corner on the market. Museum loans from Asia are increasingly tricky to negotiate, and to pay for, now that the Met, like most museums, is economically pinched.  And while Asia is constantly in the news, Asian art remains a hard sell. Foot traffic in the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries remains light.

Finally, and to my pleasant surprise, and that of my Fiancee, Ms. Liliana Bruckner, we saw Mrs. Wong with her sisters Rose and Cecilia, and her brother George, and other family members and friends.  I could also see how impressed and happy Mrs. Wong was with Mr. Hearn’s key note speech due to its multi-dimensional aspects; covering the global issues of the cultural and educational elements of the Chinese art in particular, as well as the Asian one in general.  Further, I was also happy to have provided Mrs. Wong’s book, “The Immigrant’s Way to the speaker, Mr. Hearn, who graciously accepted it, and to the sponsors of this great event, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Pauline Degendelder from AR Associates Services, LLC, Health Care Principals.  

cause he wants to see Greek or Egyptian sculpture, and getting lost, and finding himself in the Indian painting gallery and thinking, “what is this”?  Connection made.  Big change.

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Speaking about the various large color details, accompanied by informative captions, allow the reader to delve into the most significant aspect of each work. However, it has become clear that form the early 1970s to the late 90s, under the direction of Art historian Wen Fong, who was Mr. Hearn’s mentor, “a room of sculpture gradually and laboriously turned into 50 galleries. Thanks to the beneficence of a generation of gift-giving New York collectors, a bunch of pots became many thousands of objects representing every major Asian culture. And thanks to the prestige its new Asian wing brought, the Met got some huge Asian Loan shows.”

“Private collections of the kind that came to the Met can no longer be assembled in the West. China and India, now economic colossi, have a corner on the market. Museum loans from Asia are increasingly tricky to negotiate, and to pay for, now that the Met, like most museums, is economically pinched.  And while Asia is constantly in the news, Asian art remains a hard sell. Foot traffic in the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries remains light.

Finally, and to my pleasant surprise, and that of my Fiancee, Ms. Liliana Bruckner, we saw Mrs. Wong with her sisters Rose and Cecilia, and her brother George, and other family members and friends.  I could also see how impressed and happy Mrs. Wong was with Mr. Hearn’s key note speech due to its multi-dimensional aspects; covering the global issues of the cultural and educational elements of the Chinese art in particular, as well as the Asian one in general.  Further, I was also happy to have provided Mrs. Wong’s book, “The Immigrant’s Way to the speaker, Mr. Hearn, who graciously accepted it, and to the sponsors of this great event, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Pauline Degendelder from AR Associates Services, LLC, Health Care Principals.  

 

By:  George Koussa,

Public Relations Administrator and Arabic Translator-Interpreter

Margaret Wong. Wong & Associates, LLC

Cleveland, Ohio