The Printed Image in China presents for the first time highlights from the entire collection of Chinese prints at the British Museum. The collection is one of the most comprehensive and finest in Europe.
According to present knowledge, printing on paper was invented in China around 700 AD, making China the country with the longest history of printing in the world. About 120 prints will illuminate the history of printing from its inception to the present, and explore the role of the Chinese pictorial print in various cultural contexts. The show includes a wide variety of examples including Buddhist prints from the Silk Road, colourful images used in folk rituals and festivals, imperial engravings, dramatic anti-war images of the Modern Woodcut Movement and contemporary prints by artists that have gained recognition in the international art scene.
Divided into six sections and displayed in broadly chronological order, the prints are grouped under the headings ‘Printing and the Spread of Buddhism’, ‘Popularizing Elite Culture’, ‘Popular Prints’, ‘Printing at Court’ the ‘Modern Woodcut Movement’ and ‘Modern and Contemporary Prints’.
A set of wooden multi-colour printing blocks and a large imperial copperplate, each accompanied by a corresponding print, help to illustrate major printing techniques. Three spectacular loans from public and private collections complement the show. Among them the Diamond Sutra from 868 AD, the world’s earliest dated printed book. Furthermore, the loan of a Chinese court painting with a battle scene will be shown side by side with a copperplate engraving commissioned by the Chinese emperor in Paris. The painting served as the model for the engraving and has only recently been re-discovered. The painting and the print have not been exhibited before.
The Printed Image in China is the first exhibition on the Chinese print of this scope and approach. It presents some of the finest and most famous prints ever produced in China, brings an outstanding collection to a wider audience and celebrates the artistic creativity of the Chinese printmaker.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, edited by Clarissa von Spee, (a curator of the Chinese and Central Asian collections at the British Museum,) with essays by international experts (Anne Farrer, Thomas G.Ebrey and Hiromitsu Kobayashi,) and 129 colour illustrations.
Open 6 May – 5 September 2010 / Rooms 90 and 91 / Admission free