This book not only shows attractive painting plates, but alsoshould be a pioneer work. Prof. Cahill introduced a new scope and method to study of chinese paintings with some western and japanese scholars, in 1970s. Recently, his keen insight has beem shown among discussion about "Riversbank" symposium in Metropolitan Museum, December, 1999.
Actually, this small paperback book is an exhibition catalogue by Asia Society in NewYork, LosAngels, and San Francisco , 1967. The second chapter:Fantasic and bizarrre masters in late ming is important. Old books ignored these 17th century masters without Chen Hun-shou. Wu-pin landscapes and Tsu-Tsu-chug 's paintings might be first appreciated in this exhibitions and this book by connnoiseurs. Wu-pin's landscape is enough fantastic for connoiseurs who have appreciated a lot of masterpieces. Although paintings in Ching dynasty are rather stoic, Fa-jo-chen's Hanging scroll in Stockholm is extragavant. I've liked the Tai-pen-Shao's work, seeing this 16A album. Several years later, I knew this should be one of the best works among his works. 5 colour paltes, over 51 monochrome plates, and figures are fine enough for modern eyes. Especially enlarged detail plates are splendid. Kun-shin "A Thousand Peaks and Myriad Ravines" (in Rydberg Museum, Zurich) is impressive. There are few misattributions and fakes in this exhibition catalogue. It is a rae case. Prof. Cahill shows a conoisseur and collector talent.
It is difficult to write "Short History of Chinese Arts". Suppose that an honest scholar start preparing his lecture note of " Chinese Arts", he shall struggle with selecting subjects and plates. Moreover, for example, he feels that he be an expert on ancient bronzes, and a beginner of export wares in 17th century. Leaving the purgatory, he would want help to a standard textbook.
Among English books, this noted book may have used in many college courses. 1st edition(1967) and The revised edition(1973) were welcomed by many students and scholars. Even a japanese translation had been popular for many years. In this 4th edition, 84 old respectable scholar still attracts me with lucid style.
For beginners, this should be a good introduction. Appreciating artifacts in Museum, finding something in antique shops, or reading books/papers/articles about a particular subject, it needs some elementary background knowledge for chinese arts and history. This offers such COMMON SENSE.
For experienced scholars, this is an interesting reading. This might look a mean textbook for them. Before reading, I minded I become tired for many facts already learned, but I enjoy this book even in commute train, although this edition format is too large. Because not only this is Readable even for a japanese, but also gives many (sometimes implicit) skeptical suggestions. At 258p, about Wan Hui (1632-1677, painter), "The Palace Museum collection also contains a number of clever pastiches of tenth-century and Northen Song landscapes that are almost certainly his work"; keen insight!.
I should regretfully notice that some illustrations/items might be inadequate, blurred, or damaged. I hope that they will be changed at next chance.
This is a challenging work.
He realizes 5 standpoints. He writes "What is historically called art in China, by whom and when?". But, I feel it rather reflect unconscious attitude of 20th century collectors and scholars.
Art in the Tomb /Art at Court/Art in the Temple/Art in the life of the Elite /Art in the Market-Place
Following recent search about environment of artifacts; lifetime of painters, art-market, patrons, etc., as "Painter's Practice" by J.cahill shows, Mr. Clunas searchs relations of arts-makers and the society. This approach is interesting and very suggestive. It may be the first try among such cheap and popular books about "Arts in China". For such character, I feel it should not be an elementary textbook.
Calligraphy is more focused than M. Sullivan's book"The Arts of China" in the chapter "Art in the life of the Elite". Short columns explain words and technical terms vividly. It is worth to buy it only for them. Bibliographical essays(231-237 p.) are very useful. Plates and figures are all fine. There is few inadequate item. Fig 83 and 87 show as we appreciate in museums, i.e. show their handscroll format. I think the author make effort to show surrounding textile of paintings and the format in some figures.
As an avocat d'diable, I notice some. The gong of Fig. 49 is not 8th century. Dragons and a beast should be genuine 8th century items. The gong is regarded 12-13th century Japanese artifact. The item of Fig. 82 may not be a representative work by Tang-Yin.
Both C. Clunas and Michael Sullivan edited catalogues of Sir Alain Barlow Collection(now in Sussex College). (ref. The Barlow Collection of Chinese Ceramics, Bronzes and Jades: an Introduction, The University of Sussex, 1997/Nov.) Sullivan did in 1963 and 1974. Clunas did in 1997. They might have share common intellectual environment according Oriental Ceramic Society, England.
For many years, this book had been a bible for antique dealers who handle ancient chinese gold and silver . Although recent excavations indicate much knowledge and examples for chinese gold and slver, many of this collection items pass themodern criterion. A businessman Carl Kempe in Stockholm collected this splendid collection. The auther is a swedish scholar who supported Sweden King Gustuv Adolf collection. Now, this collection is in The Museum of Art and Far Eastern Antiquities in Ulricehamn, Sweden.
Many classical papers and books refer to this books as the trivial standard reference book about chinese Buddhist sculptures. Study progress on classical works, but, students irritate for lack of this reference book, especially in new colleges/libraries. For old papers, it is rather easy to ask another library to copy, but for a book, it is not.
For over 60 years, this is out of print. Now Rare and Expensive.
Recently, SDI Publications( Thailand) published this reprint. Plate Quality is fine enough. Two hardcover volumes are more convenient to use than the original 4 volumes.
I recommend public libraries and colleges with art-historical department should get this REPRINT admired. It is worthy to mind damage to the original rare versions.