CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Looking Over the Garden Wall: Visions and Fictions in Seventeenth-Century Garden Culture

Session 12 Garden and Courtyard

 Stanford University


This essay explores some features of garden culture -- understood expansively to include pictorial and literary representations -- in seventeenth century China and Europe.  The primary focus is on Chinese paintings and woodcut illustrations, but with reference to contemporary European imagery both as evidence of common concerns and as sources for specific visual appropriations.  Multiple aspects of vision, as illusion, apparition, the visionary, dream, survey and spectacle or elsewhere as apparatus-mediated perception, are central concerns, along with the varied status of gardens as fictional arenas, social enclosures, built environments, and liminal realms of dream, desire, transgression and encounter.  The garden is a stage for the fragmentation of identity and for its mediation by immaterial light and shadow, by material objects, and by representations.   As sites for oneiric and visionary experience gardens accommodate religious as well as romantic encounters.  As subjects of survey and spectacular overview, gardens are settings for social encounter and surveillance.  When garden-situated dreams and illusions give way to instrumentally mediated oversight, the geopolitically interested regard of China by Europe comes into view.



 Richard Vinograd is the Christensen Fund Professor in Asian Art in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. He is the author of Boundaries of the Self: Chinese Portraits, 1600-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); co-editor of New Understandings of Ming and Qing Painting, (Shanghai: Shanghai Calligraphy Painting Publishing House, 1994); and co-author of Chinese Art & Culture (New York: Prentice Hall and Harry N. Abrams, 2001).  Dr. Vinograd’s research interests and publications include studies of Chinese portraiture, landscape painting and cultural geography, urban print culture, painting aesthetics and theory, art historiography, modern and contemporary Chinese painting, and  historical and contemporary transcultural art.