“Picturing China for an Early American Audience: The 1790-1795 van Braam Albums” is the title of a talk next week by Bruce MacLaren, associate curator of Chinese art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
The talk begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Art History Department.
In spring 1796, Dutch American merchant A.E. van Braam Houckgeest returned to America following an audience with the Qianlong emperor in Beijing. Along with a set of porcelain for Martha Washington, van Braam disembarked with 1,800 paintings illustrating various facets of life in China, including technology, history and customs as well as the terrain he observed during his arduous journey to and from the Forbidden City.
Produced by two unnamed Guangdong artists, the paintings became the first images from China’s interior to be exhibited in the United States and showed a dynamic blend of aesthetic influences, including traditional Chinese painting, Dutch engravings and Jesuit art filtered through the Beijing court.
MacLaren’s presentation will trace the paintings’ remarkable narrative, followed by an examination of their critical reception in the newly formed United States of America, and conclude with a look at their noteworthy and innovative mix of artistic techniques.