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The appearance of modern Chinese art prints outside China is rather recent. The number of available books in English on this subject can currently (2004) be counted with one or two hands. Here are some recent publications that we purchased, reviewed and considered interesting and recommendable.
We are presenting you the original wrap-up text from the book covers in apostrophes. And we added our personal comment to each book.
A portfolio assembled by Christer von der Burg, with contributions by An Bin, Julia F. Andrews, David Barker, Hwang Yin, Ellen Johnston Laing and Frances Wood� 9.25 x 13", 268 pp., 60 color and 171 b/w illustrations, paper, London, 2003, ISBN 0-9546048-1-4 (paperback).
"This volume presents contemporary Chinese woodcuts from the Muban Foundation. A groundbreaking reference in a new and exciting field for collectors and students of art history, it includes authoritative essays by An Bin, Julia F. Andrews, Ellen Johnston Laing and Frances Wood. Hwang Yin has provided biographies of the artists and David Barker contributes a glossary of Chinese printmaking terms."
"The Muban Foundation was formed in June 1997 by Christer von der Burg and the late Verena Bolinder-M�ller. They decided to establish the Foundation because they shared a love of Chinese woodblock prints and were concerned about gradual decline of the art in contemporary China. The Foundation was also created as a focus for the study and appreciation of Chinese printmaking throughout the world, particularly by comparing contemporary Chinese practice with that of other cultures."
"In its early days, the Foundation concentrated on acquiring the most significant work from the contemporary artists and the first of many buying trips to China took place in October 1997. Thereafter, trips took place in the spring and autumn of each year involving visits to all the major academies and art schools in China. The Muban collection now comprises illustrated and printed books from the 10th to the 19th century, sheet prints from the 17th century to the 1930s and artists prints from 1930 to the present."
"The Muban portfolio is the Foundation's most ambitious undertaking - Christer von der Burg's intention was to devise a project both to benefit individual artists and bring contemporary Chinese woodblock prints to the attention of other printmakers, collectors, dealers and museums outside China. It took three visits to China before the portfoloio was realized. Sixty artists were selected to reflect the wide range of talent working in the contemporary field and to represent a cross-section of contemporary printmaking. The majority of artists responded with great enthusiasm; many remarking that this project was one that the artists should have initiated themselves. The Foundation set no restrictions on style or content of the prints, but it gave a maximum and minimum overall paper size. Each artist was asked to print 155 copies of their image and to give the blocks to the Muban Foundation for archival and educational purposes. Of the 155 copies, five are hors de commerce, 60 will form portfolios to be given to the participating artists and the remaining 90 copies will be assembled into portfolios for retail."
We consider this the most valuable of the books on modern Chinese prints that we found so far. It is the book you should start with. It gives you an easy to read introduction to modern Chinese printmaking and has a fine selection of full-page print images, one for each artist in the collection and with a short biography of the artist.
Woodblock Printing in China 1980-2000
Edited by: Anne Farrer - with contributions by: David Barker, Christer van der Burg, Norma Fung, He Weimin, Hwang Yin, Beth McKillop, Naomi Pears, Qi Fengge, Iris Wachs, Frances Wood and Zheng Haiyao.
10.25 x 11.25", 224 pp., fully illustrated in color and b/w, the Muban Foundation portfolio, History of the Major Art Academies in China, Biographies of Chinese Print Artists, bibliography, index of Print Artists in the Exhibition, paper, London, 2003, ISBN 0-7123-4823-9.
"Woodblock prints have played a seminal role in the development of 20th century Chinese art, and this volume provides a highly illustrated view of Chinese prints since 1980 and of the artists who made them, and shows how China's new artistic and political climate has produced iamges of surprising virtuosity and elegance."
"The book features in full color 200 of the finest prints, mostly woodcuts depicting largely non-abstract subjects, by leading contemporary Chinese artists. Most of the prints featured in the book are from the Muban Foundation, the foremost research collection of Chinese woodblock prints. Through detailed examination of these works, continuities and innovations in Chinese printmaking are explored. The works are grouped into 7 themes: text and image, folk traditions, the political legacy, the concrete jungle, the land and its people, the human form, and new directions."
"Essays by Chinese and British scholars explore the political and literary context of printmaking in modern China: the role of Lu Xun, China's greatest 20th century writer, who was also an enthusiast for woodblock printing; and the materials, tools and techniques that Chinese printmakers use. The history of China's academies of printmaking and short biographies of the print artists are included as appendices, along with a bibliography of works in Chinese, Japanese and English."
This is the catalog of an Exhibition at the British Library, November 7, 2003 to March 7, 2004, in association with the Muban Foundation. An excellent work that every collector of modern Chinese prints should have. For a primer we would however recommend to buy "The Art of Contemporary Chinese Woodcuts" first - we personally liked its print selection more than in "Chinese Printmaking Today". The catalog shows many prints in black and white.
Selections from the Muban Foundation Collection
Author: Ellen Johnston Laing, published by University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies, 12/2002, Ann Arbor, 8.5 x 11", 206 pp., 84 color prints, bibliography, index, paperback, ISBN: 0-89264-154-1.
"Traditional popular woodblock prints preserve a Chinese folk art that has nearly vanished. This book explores and explains the artistic and aesthetic bases of popular prints revealed in eighty-four late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century examples belonging to the London-based Muban Foundation for the Propagation of Chinese Woodblock Printing and Prints."
"Initially, the Muban Foundation owned just a few of the later single-sheet popular prints that are the focus of this study. They had been acquired from the estates of Jean-Pierre Dubosc (1903-1988), Henri Vever (1854-1943), and Robert des Rotours (1891-1980), as well as several identified owners. In 1999 this modest collection was substantially augmented by the acquisition of another 250 late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century prints originally assembled by Wang Shangyi (1905-1972). It is now one of the largest and most important private collections of Chinese popular prints of this era in the West."
A wonderful book with full-page print illustrations (right panel) and one full page with explanatory text for each featured print (left panel). The text descriptions are a rich source for "ignorant" art lovers and experienced collectors as well to learn astonishing and interesting facts about the world of the Chinese folk art print and the culture of the common Chinese people.
"With his smooth, warm, red face which radiated light in all directions, Chairman Mao Zedong was a fixture in Chinese propaganda posters produced between the birth of the People's Republic in 1949 and the early 1980s. These infamous posters were, in turn, central fixtures in Chinese homes, railway stations, schools, journals, magazines, and just about anywhere else where people were likely to see them. Chairman Mao, portrayed as a stoic superhero (a.k.a. the Great Teacher, the Great Leader, the Great Helmsman, the Supreme Commander), appeared in all kinds of situations (inspecting factories, smoking a cigarette with peasant workers, standing by the Yangzi River in a bathrobe, presiding over the bow of a ship, or floating over a sea of red flags), flanked by strong, healthy, ageless men and "masculinized" women and children wearing baggy, sexless, drab clothing. The goal of each poster was to show the Chinese people what sort of behavior was considered morally correct and how great the future of Communist China would be if everyone followed the same path toward utopia by uniting together. Combining fact and fiction in a way typical of propaganda art, these posters exuded positive vibes and seemed to suggest that Mao was an omnipresent force that would accompany China to happiness and greatness. This book brings together a selection of colorful propaganda artworks and cultural artifacts from photographer Michael Wolf's vast collection of Chinese propaganda posters, many of which are now extremely rare."
"Anchee Min was born and raised in Mao's China. A staunch party supporter, she was awarded the lead role in a film to be made by Mao's wife, Jiang Ching, but the death of Mao soon after caused the film to be cancelled. In 1984, Min emigrated to the United States and later wrote the bestselling biography Becoming Madame Mao."
"Poet and fiction writer Duoduo was born in Beying, China in 1951 and emigrated in 1989, later settling in the Netherlands, where he became a writer in residence at the Sinological Institute of Leiden University. He is considered one of the most outstanding poets to emerge after the Cultural Revolution."
"Stefan R. Landsberger holds a PhD in Sinology from Leiden University, Netherlands. He is a Lecturer at the Documentation and Research Centre for Modern China, Sinological Institute, Leiden University, and one of the editors of the journal China Information. Landsberger has one of the largest private collections of Chinese propaganda posters in the world. He has published extensively on topics related to Chinese propaganda, and maintains an extensive website exclusively devoted to this genre of political communications."
This book is not really about Chinese prints, but Chinese propagenda posters. Many may remember them simply as "Mao Posters" from the 1960s. They have now become a serious field for collectors and most have even become rare and expensive. And no doubt, Chinese propagenda posters are an important part of China's art history of the 20th century.
The book is an excellent "coffee table book" with great illustrations of original Chinese propaganda posters, each image with perfect descriptions of the poster with titles, the artist, the year of publication, the publisher and even the original price. The book is kept in English, French and German. Chinese Propaganda Posters features three articles at the beginning. We would have liked to see more textual information on the history of Chinese propagenda posters. But nevertheless, if you like the genre, a recommendable purchase.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
.. more about Dieter Wanczura
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Works by emerging Chinese artists in BUYDIRECT.