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The Chinese Influence on Western Art: Flattery, or Something Much More Sinister - Essay Example

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Your Name Prof’s Name Date The Chinese Influence on Western Art: Flattery, or Something Much More Sinister? There is an English saying that “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” which essentially means that if one imitates something it must meant that they value that quality or that object very highly, otherwise they would not be likely to copy it…
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The Chinese Influence on Western Art: Flattery, or Something Much More Sinister

Download file to see previous pages... Chinese influence on Western art is not just that Westerners enjoyed the forms of Chinese art and wanted to produce things that looked similar because they were beautiful: this would be a relatively sincere form of flattery to Chinese art. Instead, what they seemed to enjoy most about Chinese art was the fact that it was exotic, which is no different than current people collecting tribal art from Africa with no knowledge of the culture or anything like that. This thus does not represent a sincere form of flattery, but something more sinister. I would argue that China’s main appeal was that it was exotic, which meant that Westerners formed a distorted and over-simplified view of Chinese people and culture, which could have played a part in the West’s frequent aggression towards China during 18th and 19th centuries. In composing this essay I visited the Chinese National Museum to view elements of both Chinese and Western art based on Chinese art. I then selected three images that I believe would be able to construct a prototypical image of Chinese art: an Octoginal Jar with Iranian Brass Mounts, a Pair of Decorative Candle Sticks, and Candlesticks and Altar Vase with Biscuit Applied Overglaze enamels. Each of these was an indigenously produced piece of Chinese art, and in putting them together one can begin to construct fundamental aspects of Chinese art. These are things like repetitive blue decoration, often featuring a flower motif, which often repeats but is not entirely formulaic, as seen with the decorations on the alter pieces. These pieces seem to be expressions of similar aesthetic principles, which simultaneously value cohesion and repetitiveness as well as uniqueness. On the surface, an English piece, the Blue-and-White serving platter, mirrors many of these ideas. It has the prototypical Chinese blue decoration on a white background, and so forth. However, a closer examination shows that it is somewhat more sinister. Firstly, it simply shows a greater attention to symmetry than Chinese pieces, with things like the direction of scrolls being mirrored across a central axis. This shows that English were already using elements of Chinese culture, but adapting them to their own sensibilities. More problematic, however, is the fact that content of the decoration is not Chinese at all. Chinese art has things like flower or art motifs, occasionally with symbolically important animals such as dragons. This piece, however, seems to trade entirely on the exoticism of China: it includes elements that are solely there to show how “Chinese” the piece is, such as scrolls and vases, which would never actually be put on Chinese art. This work thus seems to render exotic the Chinese, and play on how strange Chinese culture is, rather than paying it any respect. This seems to mirror the ways many westerners thought about the Chinese people: they were certainly remarkable, but mostly just strange. For instance, in 1753, “The wife of the king of Sweden” was given an elaborate display that was supposed to be attached to her love of China. What occurred, however, was a “ridiculous” display, in which a group of people imitating Chinese cultural practices such as dance performing Chinese solutes and so forth (Jacobson, 94). This shows that the West did not value Chinese ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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