By Sarah Daniels, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, art history professor Yan Sun and the 10 students from her Art History Methods class opened their curated exhibit titled “From Mountains to Cities.” The students included Catherine Haley ’24, Conrad Martens ’25, Cyndy Basil ’25, Emma Wylam ’24, Isobel Debenham ’25, Katherine Tyson ’26, Lenna Kouzoujian ’25, Miriam Glatfelter ’24, Molly Griffith ’23 and Noelle Muni ’24.
The exhibit focused on East Asian landscapes and presented, as described in the exhibit’s catalog, “adaptations of poetry, commentary on changing culture, and visions of the natural environment” to reflect a connection with nature.
Haley chose a piece titled “The City of Canton-From the Island of Honan-From a Sketch by our Special Artist and Correspondent” from the “Illustrated London News.”
Haley discussed what this specific piece added to the exhibit: “This print provides a glimpse into the city of Canton, showcasing daily life, local fishermen, and the vibrant harbor amid a significant historical backdrop.”
The piece “From Mountains to Cities,” chosen by Martens, is a duo of ink on silk paintings.
“Yang is believed to be connected to heaven which ties into the divine inspiration that Song dynasty artists found in nature… Yu portrays this through downward ink strokes as they all lead to the bottom of the painting giving an illusion that they are being sucked into the Earth,” Martens said. “The yin idea of concealment is manifested through Yu’s ink washes as New York City in the background appears to be a misty shroud. The two paintings represent opposing forces but harmony is achieved through fusion.”
Another piece, chosen by Basil, is a neckless iron-red glazed square teapot from the Qíng dynasty, decorated with gold accents and paintings on both sides of the teapot.
Addressing the thematic relevance of the piece, Basil said, “Both scenes featured on the teapot thematically embrace immersion in the natural world. They speak to parallel traditions of celebrating China’s beauty in landscape painting and poetry.”
“Japanese Landscape,” a handscroll with ink and color on silk originating from Japan, was chosen by Wylam. This piece has elements of Western art peeking through as the plants have an “oil painting-like method.”
Wylam went on to describe more of this art piece: “Effect on the water is similar [to the plants] as, closer to the shore, shading is conveyed through specks of dark blue rather than a constant gradient that was preferable in literati paintings. Beisai, though far removed from the origins of literati art, was able to masterfully weave together traditional and Western styles to create an early twentieth-century Japanese landscape.”
Debenham picked a woodblock print titled “Scenery of Tago Bay” by Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Hiroshige.
On this addition to the exhibit, Debenham said, “The print captures the significance of social class and places it within the backdrop of the ‘Inaka Genji.’ It is a testament to the artistic prowess of the two masters who created it, and their ability to seamlessly intertwine landscape and figural representation into a single print to reflect the sensibility of the samurai class.”
“Landscape,” chosen by Tyson, was painted by Pu Ru or Pu Xinyu. Tyson discussed the perspective of the piece: “The piece evokes a sense of tension and longing. These sentiments are enhanced by the older figures lurking in the forest while the youth are wandering away into an unknown space.”
Kouzoujian chose a Japanese piece titled “Descending Geese at Katada.” In reference to this woodblock print, Kouzoujian said, “It fosters a sense of community and nationalism through the depiction and reverence of nature even for those who are unable to travel, but are able to take in the beauty and appreciate all that Japan has to offer.”
One of the 3D objects curated by the students was “Miniature Cork Landscape” from China, which was chosen by Glatfelter.
“The religious symbolism and masterful cork carving in ‘Miniature Cork Landscape’ combine to create an idyllic scene of peace, balance, and unity between humans and nature, Glatfelter said. “This otherworldly scene brims with minuscule details, inviting the viewer to imagine their own journey through the harmonious landscape.”
“Night View of Ohashi Bridge at Atoka” by Hiroshima Koho was a woodblock print with ink and color on paper. This piece was curated by Griffith.
Elaborating on the piece and its importance, Griffith said, “This print is poised powerfully at the juncture between the old ‘ukiyo-e’ and the new prints, enabling a broader understanding of the evolution of woodblock printing and its significance in the national development of Japan in the late nineteenth century.”
Muni curated Suzuki Harunobu’s “Two Women at the Seashore,” a woodblock print with ink and color on paper.
Expressing the importance of the piece, Muni said, “Executed in full polychrome and drawing on the tradition of using woodblock prints to disseminate poetry, Harunobu’s ‘Two Women at the Seashore’ blends not only old traditions and new technologies but also poetry, figure, and landscape into one cohesive story.”
Professor Yan Sun reflected on the opening event by saying, “The class did a wonderful job at the opening. Every student gave a presentation of their research on a work in the exhibition.”
Interim director of the Schmucker Art Gallery and art and art history adjunct instructor Sarah Gillespie added, “Students consider[ed] the historical, material, aesthetic, and environmental significance of the works on display. It was a very well-attended event.”
The exhibit will be up in the Schmucker Art Gallery until April 13, 2024.