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Thursday, May 16 • 8:30am - 9:00am
(Book and Paper) Comparison Of Chinese Painting and Western Paper Conservation Techniques

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For several decades, traditional Chinese painting conservation has been part of the broad field of art conservation in the United States. However, conservation professionals trained in the West are typically unfamiliar with the background, educational training, and practices of Chinese painting conservation, and it has been a challenge to integrate it within our Western profession. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been working with U.S. museums to address this disconnect, foster training, and promote Chinese painting conservation. My background and training in both Chinese painting and Western paper conservation provides a perspective on both traditions. As a result, as a participant in this initiative, I am motivated to engage conservators across these traditions and increase the profile of Chinese painting conservation in the U.S. During the conservation of a 20th century, Qing Dynasty ancestor portrait painted with ink and color on paper, a specific question arose: What treatment approaches would be taken by Western paper conservators or those without expertise in Chinese paper-based objects and might these approaches and techniques be useful or appropriate for Chinese works. Chinese paintings have unique laminate structures composed of multiple layers of paper supporting a painted primary support with silk or paper borders constructed to achieve a flat and balanced structure that can withstand repeated handling. This painting was in poor condition, with severe creases that made it difficult to unroll flat and exhibit without extensive treatment. Following treatment using traditional Chinese and East Asian mounting techniques, it was decided that this painting would not be returned to its previous rolled format, but remounted and stored flat. This format shares properties with two-dimensional paper-based objects familiar to most Western conservators. In order to compare and contrast treatment approaches, I surveyed several Western paper conservators about the techniques they would apply to this painting. Although they would normally send this type of painting to a specialist, they were able to evaluate its issues through photographs and provide novel ideas and treatment approaches. This talk will present the traditional Chinese approach used to treat this painting, and Western-based treatment proposals from my colleagues. My examination of different approaches, techniques, and materials will expand our knowledge of treatment techniques across disciplinary fields, and assess if and when a combination of traditional Chinese and Western approaches is appropriate. More importantly, this talk will shed light on Chinese conservation approaches and how Chinese and Western approaches can be leveraged to advance conservation practices in the US.

avatar for Grace Jan

Grace Jan

The Yao Wenqing Chinese Painting Conservator, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Grace Jan is The Yao Wenqing Chinese Painting Conservator at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Since 2009, she has worked on the museums’ Chinese painting and calligraphy collection alongside Ms. Xiangmei Gu, senior Chinese painting... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 8:30am - 9:00am EDT
Earth Ballroom A Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Book and Paper