As mentioned in an earlier blog, details have now been released by the Getty Museum on their forthcoming exhibit in the new year which seeks to redefine the history of photography in China by illuminating the intersection of traditional Chinese artistic media and the modern technology of photography, drawing special attention to indigenous Chinese photographers.
Brought to Asia in the early 1840s by European travelers, photography was both a witness to the dramatic changes that took place in China through the early-twentieth century, and a catalyst for further modernization. Employing both ink brush and camera, Chinese painters adapted the new medium, grafting it onto traditional aesthetic conventions.
"Until now, these early photographs have received scant attention and there has been little attempt to study them within a social and cultural context. This exhibition helps provide a historical and visual background for understanding modern and contemporary China and its current relation with the West," said Frances Terpak, curator of photographs in the Getty Research Institute.
The exhibition features more than 100 works, culled primarily from the Getty Research Institute's strong holdings on the early history of photography in China. The works in the exhibition range from an 1859 portrait of a Chinese family made near Shanghai to glass slides of revolutionary soldiers created in 1911 in Shansi province.
Organized into five sections, the exhibition, which coincides with the beginning of the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit, includes works by Lai Afong and Tung Hing, two of the most notable Chinese photographers of the nineteenth century. Lai's specialty was the closely observed portrait group, while Hing was a master of Chinese landscape, excelling in extraordinary multipart photographic panoramas. Hing's six-part landscape of the Min River snaking through the city of Fuzhou exemplifies how Asian photographers drew upon the Chinese literati tradition of landscape scrolls for inspiration. Also notable are a series of photographs depicting street trades and goods made for Chinese export, and rare gouache and oil paintings made by Chinese painters, such as the Cantonese artist Tingqua, on loan to the exhibition from The Kelton Foundation in Los Angeles.
Brush & Shutter: Early Photography in China runs concurrently with Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Western Road and Photography from the New China. Details of the Brush & Shutter exhibition are available here.
Photo: "Collage of many photographs." China, late 1800s. Anonymous. Albumen print. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles