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Silent Poetry

A new book and focus exhibition celebrate Cleveland’s outstanding collection of Chinese paintings
August 10, 2016
Streams and Mountains without End

Streams and Mountains without End 1100–1150. China, late Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) to the Jin dynasty (1115–1234). Handscroll, ink and slight color on silk; 35.1 x 1,103.8 cm. Gift of the Hanna Fund 1953.126


Silent Poetry: Masterworks of Chinese Painting is a new focus exhibition organized to celebrate the publication of a similarly titled book, which offers a detailed examination of more than 100 of the museum’s finest Chinese paintings. Far more than a traditional catalogue of selected works, this substantial book (about 500 pages and weighing nine pounds) sets out critical scholarship, reaffirming the significance of connoisseurship in Chinese painting studies using the remarkable Cleveland collection.

The publication reflects the contributions of several generations of curators and historians of Chinese art. Not only does it pay tribute to the distinguished collection assembled by former director Sherman E. Lee and former curator Wai-kam Ho, but it also uses these rich resources, together with new acquisitions, as the basis for fresh studies that reflect new scholarship. Curator emeritus Ju Hsi Chou initiated this project when he joined the museum in 1998 and, after his retirement in 2004, continued to work on it with unfailing commitment, leading the research, which incorporates contributions by the most recent curator, Anita Chung. It has been a marathon project, drawing upon past accomplishments as a source of inspiration for the pursuit of new knowledge. The catalogue offers theoretical contributions and establishes critical methods for examining Chinese paintings. It provides in-depth information for arguing the outstanding significance of individual works and, at times, for questioning established views, with penetrating insights. While certain entries challenge widely held opinions regarding authenticity, authorship, and date, the catalogue offers a methodological framework for the critical study of Chinese painting. Probing into aspects of connoisseurship, it will no doubt make a lasting contribution to the field.


500 pages and nine pounds

500 pages and nine pounds of awesome Chinese painting. $125, hardbound only


With the opening of new Chinese galleries, the museum’s collection is once again available for public enjoyment. Because of the museum’s commitment to interpreting (and reinterpreting) the collection to engage a range of audiences, from specialists to visitors of all backgrounds, we hope this scholarly publication, intellectually ambitious by its nature, will also provide a solid foundation for developing rich and diverse educational and public programs in the service of a broad audience. We furthermore trust that it will engage an international community of Chinese art historians and stimulate new scholarship on the museum’s collection. We are profoundly grateful to June and Simon K. C. Li for their great dedication to the study of Chinese art and culture, and their vision to support this project. We are equally indebted to the Henry Luce Foundation. Their generosity and patience have made the publication possible.

The focus exhibition offers a concise but captivating introduction to Chinese painting through a selection of ten rarely seen handscrolls from the museum collection, ranging from the 12th-century Streams and Mountains without End to the 18th-century Portraits of Emperor Qianlong, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts by Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian, 1688–1766) and later Chinese artists. 


Cleveland Art, November/December 2015