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Press Release - Major Exhibition to Feature Esteemed Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy

February 23, 2009

 

“Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection” highlights masterworks spanning 900 years

 

April 11–July 12, 2009
MaryLou and George Boone Gallery
Press Preview: Fri., April 10, 10 a.m.–noon

 

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Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715), Western Mountains in Spring Mist (detail), 1701. Ink and color on paper. Collection: Wan-go H. C. Weng

 

The Weng Legacy | Related Programs | Press Images

 

SAN MARINO, Calif.—The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will highlight one of the greatest private collections of Chinese art in the nation with the presentation of “Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection,” on view April 11–July 12, 2009, in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery. Based on an exhibition organized in 2007 by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Huntington’s presentation will feature 41 masterworks created over a period of 900 years along with personal objects belonging to the Weng family. The exhibition will be complemented by an array of educational programs and a catalog based on new research published by Huntington Library Press.

 

Revered in China as well as in the United States, the Weng collection is also being presented in “The Preservation of Inheritance: The Weng Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy” at the Beijing World Art Museum (Dec. 10, 2008–Feb. 1, 2009).

 

Assembled primarily during the 19th century, the Weng collection has survived more than 100 years of dynastic changes and warfare to remain unscathed in the care of one family. Weng Tonghe (1830–1904), who formed the collection, was a preeminent figure in China, a “scholar-official” who held some of the highest positions at the imperial court. His collection of paintings and calligraphy was passed down through six generations, finally coming to his great-great-grandson Wan-go H. C. Weng (b. 1918), currently living in New Hampshire.

 

“It is a tremendous honor to be presenting one of the most important collections of Chinese art in the world to audiences in Southern California,” said Steven S. Koblik, president of The Huntington. “Wan-go H. C. Weng helped The Huntington create a spirit of authenticity for our Suzhou-style garden, and now the works in his family’s collection and their examples of scholarship, connoisseurship, and preservation will provide a rich cultural context for Liu Fang Yuan, our Garden of Flowing Fragrance.”

 

Wan-go H. C. Weng left China for the United States when Japan attacked Shanghai in 1937, but returned in 1948 to bring the family collection back to the United States for safekeeping, months before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when the country would be virtually closed off from the world for the next 30 years. A filmmaker, poet, historian, and artist, Weng has committed himself to the preservation and study of his cultural heritage and served as the first adviser to The Huntington’s Chinese garden, Liu Fang Yuan, or Garden of Flowing Fragrance, which opened in February 2008.

 

“This will be a rare opportunity for experts and enthusiasts to view masterpieces from the Song, Ming, and Qing periods and works that define the meaning of Chinese scholarly taste,” notes June Li, curator of The Huntington’s Chinese garden and of the exhibition. “But ‘Treasures through Six Generations’ will be designed for those with little previous exposure to Chinese cultural traditions, as well. It will tell stories about virtuosity, history, and family that are universally meaningful, and the tale of the Weng family and its art collection is an excellent way to learn basic Confucian values that infuse Chinese culture.”

 

“Treasures through Six Generations,” comprising works ranging from the 13th to the 21st century, will be organized chronologically and will include two videos with Wan-go H. C. Weng produced by Northern Light Productions for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston— one focusing on the collection and its stewardship and the other explaining how to view a monumental hand scroll, Ten Thousand Li up the Yangzi River (1699) by Wang Hui (1632–1717). An education room with self-directed art-making activities will focus on three elements intrinsic to Chinese painting: brushwork, calligraphy, and seals.

 

Exhibition Highlights
One of the earliest works in “Treasures through Six Generations” is a hand scroll by Liang Kai (13th century), who was especially well-known for his Buddhist and Daoist figure paintings, but who from about 1201 to 1204 served as a painter at the court of the Southern Song. Not many of his works remain, and Frontispiece to a Daoist Scripture (ca. 1201–04) is the only known example of his courtly style. Made with fine ink lines in a technique called baimiao, the painting depicts six narrative scenes of human activities surrounding a centrally seated figure emanating radiance and accompanied by a group of saintly figures. A mysterious title strip mounted on the painting has inspired a scholarly debate that continues today.

 

The largest work on view will be Ten Thousand Li up the Yangzi River by Wang Hui, in which the artist traces China’s greatest river in about 53 feet of imaginatively layered brushwork. The Yangzi is the longest river in Asia, flowing from the Dangla Mountains in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau eastward to the East China Sea. It is a major resource for agriculture and a crucial artery for trade. Wang Hui’s meticulous treatment of the Yangzi theme in this scroll makes it one of the imperial painter’s greatest works. Visually summarizing 3,915 miles of river, Wang Hui highlights various cities, settlements, and famous sceneries along the way with descriptive details and delicate brushwork.

 

Along with these and other great works by classical Chinese artists such as Shen Zhou (1427–1509), Xiang Yuanbian (1525–1590), and Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715), paintings and calligraphy created by generations of the Weng family, including Weng Tonghe and Wan-go H. C. Weng, will show the continuation of discipline and cultivation of the scholar class, traditionally the leading elite of China.

 

Calligraphy of the Character hu (Tiger) (1890), a hanging scroll by Weng Tonghe, is a dramatic single character hu or “tiger,” written in ancient cursive script. Hu was regarded as a powerful talisman against harmful spirits, and Weng Tonghe’s hu is especially compelling because of his prominent status and auspicious timing. He wrote the calligraphy during the first month of 1890, the Year of the Tiger, when he turned 60. At that time, Weng was at the height of his career as teacher and trusted advisor to the Guangxu emperor, who had just taken over executive duties.

 

A delicately painted hand scroll by Wan-go H. C. Weng, Elegant Gathering at the Laixi Residence (1986–90), is one of the more recent works in the exhibition. “Elegant gathering” (yaji), describes a meeting of cultivated individuals who exchange ideas and sentiments through poetry, calligraphy, music, and painting—an event that has been at the center of Chinese literati life for centuries. As recorded in the painting, such an event was held in April 1985 at Laixi Residence, the home of Wan-go and his wife, when six of the most respected historians of Chinese painting and calligraphy met to view the Weng collection. The scholars from China were seeing the famous collection for the first time, elated to know that it had not been lost but remained intact and was well cared for.

 

Related Events
To complement “Treasures through Six Generations,” The Huntington will present an array of educational and scholarly programs, including those that highlight Chinese brush painting, music, and culinary arts, as well as curricula for local schools. Two lectures have been scheduled to accompany the exhibition: Peter Sturman, associate professor of Chinese painting and calligraphy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, will speak on Weng Tonghe’s calligraphy on April 14, 2009; and Hao Sheng, curator of Chinese art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will talk about Weng Tonghe, his family, and collection on June 23, 2009.

 

Related Publication
The Huntington Library Press will publish Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection in conjunction with the exhibition. Edited by June Li, the lavishly illustrated 102-page catalog based on new research provides an in-depth look at 41 key works in the Weng collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy. The book includes an introduction by June Li and an essay by Hao Sheng. Distributed by University of California Press and available from the Huntington’s Bookstore & More ($24.95).

 

Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance
Opened in February of 2008, The Huntington’s Chinese garden, Liu Fang Yuan, or the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, reflects traditional Suzhou-style scholar gardens and features a 1.5-acre lake, a complex of pavilions, a teahouse and tea shop, and five stone bridges set against a wooded backdrop of mature oaks and pines. The garden is a showcase for an ancient and influential style of landscape architecture and is intimately linked to China’s artistic and literary traditions. Each pavilion and many of the other features have poetic names, evoking the period during which scholars created quiet, walled-off gardens in which to contemplate, write calligraphy, and experience the beauty surrounding them.

 

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution digital images for publicity use are available on request.]

 

About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at www.huntington.org.

 

Visitor Information:
The Huntington is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $15 adults, $12 seniors (65+), $10 students (ages 12 – 18 or with full-time student I.D.), $6 youth (ages 5 – 11), free for children under 5. Group rate $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends and Monday holidays: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students, $6 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of each month with advanced tickets. For more information, call: (626) 405-2100 or go to www.huntington.org.

 


Press Images

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press-2009-weng-tang-song

Tang Song, 1829–1858, China, Qing dynasty, Album of Flowers and Calligraphy, ca. 1855. Album, ink and color on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 3/5 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

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Wang Jian, 1598–1677, China, late Ming and early Qing dynasty, Summer Mountains after Dong Yuan, dated 1642.Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 67 x 35 3/5 inches.Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-spring-mist

Wang Yuanqi, 1642–1715, China, Qing dynasty, Western Mountains in Spring Mist (detail), dated 1701. Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 102/5 x 2083/10 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-excursions

Shen Zhou, 1427–1509, China, Ming dynasty, Xie An’s Excursion on the Eastern Mountain, dated 1480. Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 66 9/10 x 35 inches.Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

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Zhu Da, 1628–1705, China, Qing dynasty, Calligraphy in the Styles of Early Masters, dated 1702. Album, ink on paper, 9 1/5 x 6 2/5 inches (per page). Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-elegant-gathering

Wan-go H.C.Weng, born 1918, Elegant Gathering at the Laixi Residence (detail), 1986–1990.Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 11 7/10 x 36 4/5 inches (1st section), 11 7/10 x 35 3/10 inches (2nd section), 11 7/10 x 36 3/5 inches (3rd section). Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

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Photo of Weng Tonghe, ca. 1895-98. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-tiger

Weng Tonghe, 1830–1904, China, Qing dynasty, Calligraphy of the Character Hu (Tiger), dated 1890. Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 51 3/5 x 24 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

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Photo of Wan-go Weng, age 4

 

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Xiang Yuanbian, 1525-1590, China, Ming dynasty, Landscape after a Poem by Ji Kang, undated. Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper, 40 7/10 x 19 1/5 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-landscape-album

Yun Shouping, 1633–1690, China, Qing dynasty, Landscape Album with Calligraphy, dated 1665. Album, ink on paper, 9 x 12 2/5 inches. (double pages) Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-ten-thousand

Wang Hui, 1632–1717, China, Qing dynasty, Ten Thousand Li up the Yangzi River, dated 1699. Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 15 4/5 x 635 4/5 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-ten-thousand-detail

Wang Hui, 1632–1717, China, Qing dynasty, Ten Thousand Li up the Yangzi River (detail), dated 1699. Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 15 4/5 x 635 4/5 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

 

press-2009-weng-three-hermits

Chen Hongshou, 1598–1652, China, Qing dynasty, The Three Hermits: Plum, Chrysanthemum, and Narcissus, dated 1651. Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 9 x 53 9/10 inches. Wan-go H.C. Weng Collection.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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