New Book | Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries

Posted in books by Editor on February 9, 2015

From the Art History Publication Initiative—which, with exciting models for supporting and marketing art history books, is itself well worth a visit:

Kristina Kleutghen, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015), 384 pages, ISBN: 978-0295994109 (ebook, ISBN: 978-0295805528), $70.

Kleutghen_coverIn the Forbidden City and other palaces around Beijing, Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) surrounded himself with monumental paintings of architecture, gardens, people, and faraway places. The best artists of the imperial painting academy, including a number of European missionary painters, used Western perspectival illusionism to transform walls and ceilings with visually striking images that were also deeply meaningful to Qianlong. These unprecedented works not only offer new insights into late imperial China’s most influential emperor, but also reflect one way in which Chinese art integrated and domesticated foreign ideas.

In Imperial Illusions, Kristina Kleutghen examines all known surviving examples of the Qing court phenomenon of ‘scenic illusion paintings’ (tongjinghua), which today remain inaccessible inside the Forbidden City. Produced at the height of early modern cultural exchange between China and Europe, these works have received little scholarly attention. Richly illustrated, Imperial Illusions offers the first comprehensive investigation of the aesthetic, cultural, perceptual, and
political importance of these illusionistic paintings
essential to Qianlong’s world.

Kristina Kleutghen is assistant professor of art history
and archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊


Note to Readers
Chronology of Chinese Dynasties and Political Periods

Introduction: A New Vision of Painting
1  Painted Walls and Pictorial Illusions
2  The Study of Vision
3  Contemplating the Future
4  Peacocks and Cave-Heavens
5  Staging Europe
6  The Beauty in the Garden
Epilogue: Illusions, Imperial and Otherwise

Appendix: Chinese Texts
Glossary of Chinese Characters


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