Frederich Hirth, Qing dynasty painting, and the American Art World
Talk by Charlotte Furth, USC
Frederich Hirth (1845-1927) is well known as a pioneer German Sinologist and historian. He is less well known as a scholar, connoisseur and collector of Chinese paintings. This interest blossomed in China in the late Qing dynasty—a time when Western appreciation of “oriental antiquities” was shaped by global power shifts over three continents, and by Western struggles to conceptualize unfamiliar objects according to Renaissance ideals of artistic merit. Hirth became best known as an art historian and collector during his years at Columbia University (1903-19l7). By comparing the fortunes of his collection with those of contemporaries Ernest Fenolossa and John Ferguson, this paper engages with early 20th century interface between power politics, museum building , commerce and public taste. By looking at a fragment of Hirth’s painting collection in private hands today, we can imagine a story of changing viewership over 150 years.
Professor Furth studies the late l9th and 20th centuries to Ming-Qing period and beyond. Her abiding interests are found in the cultural studies of science and gender both together and separately. Current projects include an edited volume on Thinking With Cases: Specialist Knowledge in China's Cultural History" and an exploration of the neo-Confucian body through the life and work of Zhu Zhenheng, a 14th century physician.
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Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017