This exhibition in Berlin explores China’s culture during the Qing dynasty. See pics | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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This exhibition in Berlin explores China’s culture during the Qing dynasty. See pics

Across centuries and art genres, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin lays out the multi-faceted ways in which Chinese art has evolved within its own country and refracted through the lens of European exchange.

art and culture Updated: Sep 11, 2017 10:55 IST
Ladies playing majiang, China, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (1736–1795), 2nd half of the 18th C., hand-coloured woodcut.
Ladies playing majiang, China, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (1736–1795), 2nd half of the 18th C., hand-coloured woodcut. (Maja Bolle/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

The link between China and Europe can be traced throughout the three-century empire of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). This sweeping and essential phase of Chinese history in relation to Europe’s is reflected through sumptuous cross-cultural gift-exchanges made as the Western territory attempted to build official trade relationships with the East. The Chinese established trade barriers — with the exception of the port of Canton — despite the nation’s interest in Europe-pioneered discoveries in science and production of fine art.

Plate with chinoiseries, 1725-30, porcelain with painting on and under glaze, gilded details. (Dietmar Katz/ Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

An upcoming Berlin exhibition, “Exchanging Gazes, on display from September 29, examines the mutual fascination of these respectively far-flung cultures by way of objects, which date from between 1669 to 1907. Many of the nearly 100 pieces could be deemed ‘Chinoiserie’ or ‘Europerie,’ as they provide visual clues and cues about the early modern images the Chinese and Europeans each had about the other. Paintings, porcelain, large-format photographs, copper engravings, and even a door from a wood-paneled room provide evidence of past visions of this fascinating “other.”

Chinese couple with vase, 1779, painted porcelain, porcelain manufacture Frankenthal, Design by Franz Conrad Linck. (ietmar Katz/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

A while later, on October 12, another Chinese-themed exhibition will commence: “Portrait Painting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1912).” The selections of more than 100 paintings from the collections of the Palace Museum Beijing and the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto have rarely ever been shown in Europe. These portraits depict members of the imperial court, military figures, and artists, among other subjects.

Already on view within the overarching Staatliche Museen zu Berlin cultural group is “Working on History: Contemporary Chinese Photography and the Cultural Revolution,” curated by a German-Chinese team (on display till January 7, 2018). The exhibition examines the consequences of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) on today’s Chinese art and photography production, highlighting the use of photography as a medium for propaganda, as well as its role in censorship, montage, ritual re-enactment, and identity.

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