Chinese art at the Ashmolean Museum

Monday, July 26, 2010

On Friday, I went to Oxford for the first time, spending some time at the Ashmolean Museum. The Museum's vast collection of objects is shown off wonderfully by the new extension to the building which brings light, brightness and freshness into the Museum's space. It also has some lovely undulating staircases.

Museums are usually vast: vast spaces - so many objects, so much to see, explore, learn. I'm always drawn to small, discrete spaces. At the Ashmolean, my favourite gallery was the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery of Chinese Paintings, a lovely wood-lined, split level gallery showing Chinese painting and art through time and artefacts relating to painting, calligraphy and illustration.

The first 'painting' I saw wasn't actually a painting, but a papercut by Bovey Lee. I love the delicacy, intricacy and sheer attention to detail in these papercuts.

The calligraphy and implements on display were equally beautiful, fascinating and ornate. Imagine all the images made by these tools through time. All the images below come from the Ashmolean's online collections website Eastern Art Online.

Porcelain brush rest
This Chinese porcelain brush rest (something I never knew existed, but a very handy invention) dates from either the 2nd half of the 16th century or the first half of the 17th century.

Brass seal
This seal stamps calligraphy design, and dates from 1749.

And this calligraphy, while pretty recent (dating from 1990), tells the story of artisan Wang Xianzhi's response to his new-found fame.

Look at all the Ashmolean's calligraphy objects.