European art collectors and connoisseurs of the eighteenth century knew about Chinese architecture and furniture from imported paintings of domestic scenes and scholars’ gardens. Few objects would have been imported at the time, but the furniture types, especially the more ‘exotic’ screens, tables, chairs and stools as well as decorative objects, like brush pots, were, of course, recorded in Chinese and export paintings, and, more rarely, in drawings by European travellers to the East who observed—with fascination—the lesser-known oriental lifestyle and, in particular, furnishings and couture fashion.
A similar phenomenon can be observed for the East, where drawings rather than objects illustrated some of the Western types of buildings and furniture used by contemporaries in Europe. The painterly style and the depiction of domestic objects and interiors using Western linear perspective presented a novelty to Eastern onlookers, and anecdotes recount how surprised the Chinese were seeing such awkwardly tapering shapes and how they wondered about the strange European furniture designs.
This lecture presents a sample of the research published in my 2016 book on Classic Furniture: Craftsmanship, Trade Organisations and Cross-Cultural Influences in East and West. The first in a new series published by the university Museum, HKU, it describes the reception of Chinese art in the West and the fanciful creation of chinoiserie—an entirely European style—in eighteenth-century France, England and Germany.
Dr. Florian Knothe studies and teaches the history of decorative arts in the 17th and 18th centuries with focus on the social and historic importance of royal manufacture. He is interested in the early modern fascination with Chinoiserie in Europe and the impact European artist had in China.
Florian worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art focusing on European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, before he joined The Corning Museum of Glass as curator of the European and East Asian collections. Since January 2013, Florian serves as Director of the University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong.
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