Exhibition | The Secret of Colours: Ceramics in China and Europe

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 12, 2022

Now on view at the Baur Foundation, Museum of Far Eastern Art:

The Secret of Colours: Ceramics in China and Europe from the 18th Century to the Present
Le secret des couleurs: Céramiques de Chine et d’Europe du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours
Fondation Baur, Musée des arts d’Extrême-Orient, Geneva, 14 September 2022 — 12 February 2023

This exhibition tells the often turbulent story of the quest for colour on porcelain in China and France. It contrasts two crucial moments in the history of porcelain driven by the desire to extend the range of enamels. They occurred at the turn of the 18th century in China and during the 19th century in France, two periods during which the interactions between Europe and China, whether cultural or belligerent, were particularly intense.

The first room in the exhibition introduces visitors to enamelling techniques, the notions of translucent and opaque enamels, and to the famille verte and famille rose. This is followed by a presentation of Chinese enamelled porcelain, principally from the reigns of Kangxi (1662–1722), Yongzheng (1723–35), and Qianlong (1736–95), which are among the jewels of Alfred Baur’s collection and which exemplify the use of colour on porcelain over a period of more than a century. The new palette developed in the imperial workshops was soon exported from the port of Canton on porcelain and copper-enamel wares on that had been specially designed for the Western market.

The second section of the exhibition takes place a century later in France, at the Sèvres manufactory, where Chinese colors, long coveted for their brilliance, were keenly researched. Missionaries, chemists, and French consuls in China all contributed to bringing back samples to France where the mysteries of Chinese manufacturing techniques could be fathomed.

The last part of the exhibition introduces more contemporary research on the use of color, first of all by Fance Franck (1927–2008), who from the late 1960s worked with the Sèvres factory to recreate the famous ‘fresh red’ (‘rouge frais‘) or ‘sacrificial red’ (‘rouge sacrificiel‘) that had been mastered by the potters in Jingdezhen several centuries earlier. The exhibition’s investigation into this endless chromatic quest is brought to a close by the pure and gleamingly colourful works of Thomas Bohle (b. 1958).

Pauline d’Abrigeon, Le secret des couleurs: Céramiques de Chine et d’Europe du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours (Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2022), 170 pages, ISBN: 979-1254600054, €45. Bilingual edition (French and English).

Cover image: Vase with handles, porcelain and polychrome enamels on glaze, China, Jingdezhen, Qing Dynasty, mark and reign of Qianlong (1736–1795) (Geneva: Fondation Baur).

New Book | Global Objects

Posted in books by Editor on December 12, 2022

From Princeton UP:

Edward Cooke, Global Objects: Toward a Connected Art History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022), 336 pages, ISBN: 978-0691184739, £28 / $35.

Art history is often viewed through cultural or national lenses that define some works as fine art while relegating others to the category of craft. Global Objects points the way to an interconnected history of art, examining a broad array of functional aesthetic objects that transcend geographic and temporal boundaries and challenging preconceived ideas about what is and is not art. Avoiding traditional binaries such as East versus West and fine art versus decorative art, Edward Cooke looks at the production, consumption, and circulation of objects made from clay, fiber, wood, and nonferrous base metals. Carefully considering the materials and process of making, and connecting process to product and people, he demonstrates how objects act on those who look at, use, and acquire them. He reveals how objects retain aspects of their local fabrication while absorbing additional meanings in subtle and unexpected ways as they move through space and time. In emphasizing multiple centers of art production amid constantly changing contexts, Cooke moves beyond regional histories driven by geography, nation-state, time period, or medium.

Beautifully illustrated, Global Objects traces the social lives of objects from creation to purchase, and from use to experienced meaning, charting exciting new directions in art history.

Edward S. Cooke, Jr. is the Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts at Yale University. His books include Inventing Boston: Design, Production, and Consumption, 1680–1720 and Making Furniture in Preindustrial America: The Social Economy of Newtown and Woodbury, Connecticut.



I. Making
1  Materials
2  Realization

II. Movement
3  Circulation and Interchange
4  Function

III.  Meaning
5  Memory and Gift
6  Appearance
7  Touch


Photo Credits

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