Carleton Art Exhibit features Rare Collection of Chinese Paintings

January 3, 2017

Carleton’s Perlman Teaching Museum opens 2017 with an exhibit featuring over 30 recently restored Chinese scroll paintings. “Preserving China’s Past: Paintings of the Ming-Qing Dynasties” celebrates the art of restoration, as well as the range and variety of Chinese painting. Dating to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, these beautiful and rare Chinese paintings are on loan from the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College in southern California.

The opening reception is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, featuring an insightful lecture, “How to Read a Chinese Painting,” by Kathleen Ryor, Tanaka Memorial Professor of International Understanding and Art History, at 7 p.m. in Room 236 of the Weitz Center for Creativity, followed by refreshments and music by members of the Carleton Chinese Music Ensemble in the Perlman Teaching Museum and Weitz Commons from 8 to 9:30 p.m. All events and museum admission are free and open to the public.

Scripps College is fortunate to have a very good teaching collection of Chinese paintings, mainly dating from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties. Most were collected in China by General Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe (1864-1935) prior to 1928 and by Dr. William Bacon Pettus (b. 1880) prior to 1945. Together these two collections include 6 handscrolls, 6 album leaves, 2 fan paintings, 6 rubbings, and over 150 hanging scrolls. The subject matter comprises landscape scenes, bird and flower compositions, and various figures including Buddhist deities, Daoist immortals, sages, ancestor portraits and images of men, women and children. Many works were in poor condition when given to the Scripps Art Department.  In 1993 some paintings were damaged by a flood in the basement storage area.

Since 1999, the Williamson Gallery has embarked on an ambitious conservation project, returning 34 Chinese paintings to pristine condition. In general, costs to conserve a single painting amount to between $10,000 and 20,000. Twenty were conserved by Hisaji Sekichi of Bokusendō in Kyoto, Japan, seven by Eddie Jose, who was trained in Japan but now works in the USA. Six works were treated by Japanese-trained Tomokatsu Kawazu of Studio Sogendō in California, and three by Bunichi Yasumi, trained in Japan with a studio in Honolulu.The efforts of these talented conservators should help preserve these works for another 200 years.

In June 2014, the ASIANetwork Arts Consultancy Program provided funding for Carleton art history professor Kathleen Ryor to visit Scripps where, along with Dr. Richard Barnhart, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Yale University, she helped evaluate the entire Chinese painting collection in order to prioritize future conservation efforts.

At Ryor’s lecture on Jan. 6, she will demonstrate some of the ways in which paintings are “read” by their audiences in the 16th-18th centuries, and will show how these works provide valuable evidence of social, political, and cultural practices of imperial China.

“Preserving China’s Past: Paintings of the Ming-Qing Dynasties” will be on display through Feb. 19, 2017, and is sponsored by the Carleton College Perlman Teaching Museum in collaboration with Scripps College, with support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Jean and Arthur Ames Fund.

Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday-Friday; and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday. Admission is free. The Perlman Teaching Museum is located in the Weitz Center for Creativity, located at Third and College Streets in Northfield. For more information, call 507-222-4342 or visit