Distinguished Speaker Series

"Chinese Art the Global Eighteen Century" by Professor Dawn Odell, Lewis & Clark College

Time: 5:00pm, April 25

Location: The Oxford Road Presentation Room

Free and open to the public (Co-sponsored by the Hightower Fund, The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and the Confucius Institute, History, EAS, and REALC)

By the time a bankrupt Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801) fled the United States to auction his enormous collection of Chinese art in London, he had traveled the world and resided in Amsterdam, Macao, Jakarta, Cape Town, Malacca, Charleston, SC, and Beijing, among other cities. Although van Braam commissioned much of his art collection while living in Guangzhou and serving the Dutch East India Company, the manner in which he displayed this collection at his opulent Philadelphia estate, China’s Retreat, suggests that his sense of “Chineseness”owed as much to the social, commercial, and built environments he had experienced in Africa, Southeast Asia, and his adopted home of the newly formed United States as they did to China. This presentation discusses the ways that van Braam used his collection to lend credit (in some cases literally) to his social and commercial ambitions and argues that his contemporaries’ responses to the collection are central to understanding the historiography of Chinese art and present-day relationships between global art markets and concepts of identity.

About the speaker

Dawn Odell is an expert in Chinese and Western art whose research focuses on the exchange of objects and artistic practices between East Asia and northern Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has written about the domestication of Chinese porcelain in the Netherlands, Dutch book arts and poetic painting traditions in East Asia, and material culture in eighteenth-century Jakarta. Her current project – and the subject of her talk – is a fascinating collection of Sino-Western art that was commissioned by Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest, an eighteenth-century Dutch immigrant to the newly formed United States. A longtime resident of Guangzhou, van Braam spent years – and untold amounts of money – working with Chinese artists to create a series of paintings of scenes in China. The resulting collection, which is now held in three different repositories on two continents, is a unique treasure. Not only does it provide a glimpse of eighteenth century China that cannot be found in other sources. It also helps us understand cross-cultural artistic influence in global history. The talk will be open to all members of the Emory community, with students particularly encouraged to attend.