A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture
By: Lara Jaishree Netting (author)Hardback
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After serving as a missionary and then foreign advisor to Qing officials from 1887 to 1911, John C. Ferguson became a leading dealer of Chinese art, providing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and other museums with their inaugural collections of paintings and bronzes. In multiple publications dating from the 1920s and 1930s, Ferguson made controversial claims about the basis of Chinese art. His two Chinese-language reference works, still in use today, were produced with essential help from Chinese scholars. Emulating these "men of culture" with whom he lived and worked in Peking, Ferguson gathered paintings, bronzes, rubbings, and other artifacts. In 1935, he donated this group of more than one thousand objects to Nanjing University, the school he had helped found as a young missionary. This work offers a significant contribution to the history of Chinese art collection. Ferguson learned from and worked with Qing dynasty collectors and scholars, and then Republican-era dealers and archeologists, while simultaneously supplying the objects he had come to know as Chinese art to American museums and individuals.
He is an ideal subject to help see the interconnections between increased Western interest in Chinese art and archeology in the modern era, as well as cultural change taking place in China.
Lara Netting received her PhD in East Asian Studies at Princeton University in 2009. She has held a Getty Fellowship at the Asia Society Museum and the J. Clawson Mills Fellowship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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