CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Fan Liya
Chinese Painting through “Japanese Eyes”: with Special Reference to Laurence Binyon's Understanding and Misunderstanding of Chinese Painting

Session 13 Transmission and Adoption

University of Tokyo


This presentation examines the study of Asian painting by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), a poet and art critic, as well as a dedicated curator of Oriental Prints and Drawings at the British Museum from the 1900s to the 1930s. Binyon devoted much effort to the acquisition, exhibition and publication of the pictorial arts of Japan, China, India, and Persia right after he graduated from Oxford University in 1893. His pioneering scholarship on Chinese painting impressed Western collectors, artists, and scholars, and his work was instrumental in raising interest in Chinese art among the English audience of his time. However, Binyon’s study of Chinese painting in the early part of his career was heavily dependent upon Japanese and Western collections and publications, in which the Chinese paintings introduced were so-called kowatari 古渡,indicating those Chinese paintings brought into Japan from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. He did not gain first-hand experience with paintings preserved in China, or come into direct contact with Chinese scholars and connoisseurs until the late 1920s, when his scholarship in Asian painting matured. My presentation will explore how Binyon’s understanding (or misunderstand) of Chinese painting was shaped by Japanese connoisseurship through a critical reading of his literary works published in the 1910s.


Key word: Chinese Painting, Japan, British intellectuals


Fan Liya

Fan Liya is a PhD candidate in the Department of Area Studies, School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo (expected in November 2016). Her major academic interests include the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London, 1935-36, the reception of Chinese painting in the West at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as Japan’s role played in this process. Having engaged in various projects launched by the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto since 2008, she has published numerous articles on this subject in English and Japanese. Her dissertation is entitled “Nanjing National Government’s Cultural Diplomacy and the English Literary Activities of The China Critic Group: With Special Reference to the Holding of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London, 1935-36 ”.


Her selected publications are:

 1. Chinese Diplomat and the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London, 1935-36: From Proposal to Implementation, in Pirate's View of World History toward Possible Re-orientations,  50th International Research Symposium, held by International Research Center For Japanese Studies, 27-29th April, 2016 (English, forthcoming). 

2. British Intellectuals vis-à-vis Chinese Traditional Culture: Impacts of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London, 1935-36, in _Oriental Consciousness between Reverie and Reality 1887-1955_, ed. Shigemi Inaga, Kyoto: Mineruba Press, 2012, pp. 253-300 (Japanese). 

3. The 1935 London International Exhibition of Chinese Art: _The China Critic_ Group Reacts, _China Heritage Quarterly_, June/ September/ 2012, Nos. 3031, Australian Center on China in the World of College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University (English). 

4. Laurence Binyon, Arthur Waley and the London International Exhibition of Chinese Art, _Studies of Comparative Literature_, Society of Comparative Literature of the University of Tokyo, No. 94, 2010, pp. 95-115 (Japanese).