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Handbook of the Department of Oriental Art
This handbook is not intended in any way as a treatise on the art of the Orient. It is rather a series of illustrations of the most important objects in the collection with a running commentary. The sections on Japanese Prints and the Minor Arts of Japan were written by Helen C. Gunsaulus, Assistant Curator of Oriental Art. (Charles Fabens Kelley Curator of Oriental Art)
Oriental Art is a term rather difficult of definition for it is used in a variety of ways. In the Art Institute of Chicago it designates art of Asiatic origin as distinguished from European. There are, however, many borderline cases where the artisans of the Near East worked in European countries, producing, for example, such work as the Hispano-Moresque pottery. This may be classified either way.
The Oriental Department of the Art Institute is of comparatively recent origin, an outgrowth of the older all-inclusive Department of Decorative Arts, and, largely as a matter of convenience, many of the finest rugs are still included in the installations of the Department of Decorative Arts, as are a few of the Muhammadan textiles.
Some of the earliest gifts which really focussed the attention of Chicago people upon the art of the Orient were made in 1900 by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel M. Nickerson whose collection, mainly Chine se and Japanese, covered a wide range of interests. They also left a fund which has been used to purchase outstanding objects.
The department is most widely known for its Japanese prints and its Chinese bronzes for which the Institute is indebted to the late Clarence Buckingham, trustee from 1901 to 1913, and his sister, Miss Kate S. Buckingham, who has formed a notable collection of Chinese sculpture, pottery, porcelain and bronzes in memory of her sister, Lucy Maud Buckingham, and has continued to augment the collection of Japanese prints founded by her brother. Without the benefactions of this family the department would shrink into comparative insignificance notwithstanding important gifts from The Oriental s, a society formed for the purpose of promoting the interests of the Oriental collections of the Art Institute, and other friends.
The aim of the department has been to acquire objects of high quality artistically rather than an assembly of artifacts of ethnological or archaeological interest, though naturally much of the collection is valuable from many points of view. Many noteworthy things have been loaned by friends of the Institute from time to time, but these, for obvious reasons cannot be included in this handbook. All the objects on display are clearly labelled and may easily be understood by comparison with those that are here mentioned or discussed.
The Near Eastern branch of the department was given its first impulse by Dr. Frank
W. Gunsaulus, then trustee of the Art Institute, by his gift of the Mary Jane Gunsaulus Collection of Persian and Near Eastern Pottery which includes some famous pieces. It forms a splendid nucleus for the collection as a whole, which, though not large, gives a fairly adequate idea of the culture of Islam.
For convenience this handbook has been divided into four sections, Chinese, Japanese, Near Eastern or Muhammadan, and Miscellaneous, since such objects as do not fall under the first three headings are not numerous enough to establish separate categories, though among them may be found some of our finest things.
- Chinese Bronzes
- Chinese Sculpture
- Chinese Painting
- Chinesa Ceramics
- Japanese Painting
- Japanese Print
- Japanese Minor Arts
The Art of the Near East
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