September 25, 2008

The Last Emperor's Collection

Since 1926 China Institute has endeavored to bridge the gap between East and West with cultural and educational programs designed to promote understanding and appreciation of the Chinese civilization.

One of the Institute's major contributions to the New York art scene is its superb gallery that presents small but fascinating exhibitions on a variety of subjects. Just opened, and on view until December 14th, the Gallery of China Institute presents "The Last Emperor's Collection: Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy from the Liaoning Provincial Museum". This exhibition comprises a choice selection of scrolls from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties collected by emperors through the ages. This Imperial Collection had been dispersed by the last emperor, Pu Yi, in the early 20th Century, but since 1949 the Liaoning Provincial Museum has been engaged in an effort to reassemble as many of these treasures as possible.

Now on display are 34 of these wonderful examples of painting and calligraphy that reflect not only the finest works of the genre but the of the history of imperial collecting as well. Ranging from the delicately colored and intricately detailed panorama of "Qingming Festival on the River" to the black and white solitude of "Night Excursion to the Ten Thousand Man Rock" these scrolls differ vastly in technique and effect. The visually stunning "Ten Thousand Year-Old Pine Tree" (seen on the banner at the top of the page) was done by an actual emperor, Emperor Xuanzong, in 1431 as a gift for his mother and is remarkable for the masterful brush strokes depicting the pine needles and branches. More lighthearted is "Peach Blossom Spring", 1554, a gay landscape of color and charm.

One does not need to be an expert in Asian art to appreciate the variety and quality of these pieces. Their pure beauty will amaze you. China Institute is located at 125 East 65th Street in New York City.

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