Building a Discipline: The Longmen Grottoes and the Formation of East Asian Art History in the U.S., Ca. 1900-1955
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CitationColeman, Fletcher. 2020. Building a Discipline: The Longmen Grottoes and the Formation of East Asian Art History in the U.S., Ca. 1900-1955. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines how the needs of a new class of art professionals in the United States, trained and led by Langdon Warner (1881-1955), spurred methodological developments within the early field of East Asian art history. Predicated on my rediscovery of major bodies of unprocessed documents from the papers of Langdon Warner and his pupils, I argue that these individuals utilized antiquarian traditions associated with plaster casts and ink rubbings to inspire early methods for the restoration, exhibition, and teaching of East Asian art. In particular, I take the activities of Warner and his students at the Longmen Grottoes 龍門石窟 as a microcosm for how these ideals became embedded in objects during the removal, restoration, and display of sculpture from the site.
Chapter one introduces the early training and fieldwork of Warner. Although he was pivotal in the establishment of the field, little has been written about this aspect of his life. I highlight Warner’s formative visits to Longmen that bookended his early experiences in China. Chapter two explores the methodologies of Warner and his students, Laurence Sickman (1907-1988) and Alan Priest (1898-1969), through the removal and restoration of the imperial processions of the Binyang Central Cave賓陽中洞 at Longmen. Through newly rediscovered photographs and documents, the restorations of the reliefs are analyzed in detail for the first time, showing how the pieces became physically embedded with evolving notions of pedagogy and display. Chapter three introduces the case of a Vimalakīrti relief removed from the same cave. Through analysis of its historiography and physical state, I propose that the relief represented a turning point for Sickman and Warner regarding their pedagogical methods. Chapter four examines the ink rubbings collected by Warner’s circle during their visits to Longmen and how they utilized these collections for instruction. Unlike most early antiquarians who emphasized epigraphy, they placed greater emphasis on rubbings of images. Through examination of the properties of their rubbings and writings on the medium, I argue that Warner and his students conceived of rubbings as unique aesthetic objects and as analogous to plaster cast collections.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365528
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