This article explores how the category “Chinese art” was articulated and consolidated in the early twentieth century by focusing on Stephen Bushell's Chinese Art, the first book in English defined in terms of this category. Bushell's monograph highlights the intercultural character of the category, which was transformed in its content and cultural significance, when ostensibly the same authentic knowledge, articulated in verbal and visual representations, was moved from China to Europe and back again. The article starts by examining how Bushell's insider knowledge of Chinese art was transformed to fit the institutional setting of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It then explores how the authoritative knowledge of Chinese art communicated in Bushell's book was appropriated in China by the journal Guocui xuebao 國粹學報 (Journal of National Essence) in the context of attempts to revive national culture. Both cases involved hitherto unnoticed repetitions of text and images. By analyzing the mechanism informing these repetitions, this article reveals the entangled history behind the distinctive articulations of “Chinese art” in Britain and in China. Moreover, the analysis shows how the same elements, whether words or pictures, acquired a substantially different significance as they moved between cultures. This is exemplified by the formulation of the newly emergent classifying category Zhongguo meishupin 中國美術品 (“Chinese art objects”) in Guocui xuebao.
Archives of Asian Art – Duke University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2018