The Orchid Pavilion Gathering: Chinese Painting from the University of Michigan Museum of Art

January 20–March 20, 2004

The rich tradition and complex evolution of painting in China from the twelfth to twentieth centuries is presented in this survey selection of hanging scrolls and hand scrolls. The Orchid Pavilion Gathering: Chinese Painting form the University of Michigan Museum of Art, with rare works from the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, explores the intricate developments and relations of major schools and styles over the course of nearly 900 years of artistic production.

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering features more than sixty art works, which together demonstrate the essential importance of history, literature, philosophy, and religion to the art and aesthetics of Chinese painting. Visually stunning as these exhibited works are, the exhibition reveals that Chinese painting is more than an art for the eye alone.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a work from the Ming Dynasty by the renowned painter Sheng Mao-yeh (1594–1640). Sheng took as the subject for his hand scroll, painted in ink on silk, the justly celebrated convocation of literati who gathered for three days of relaxation on the banks of a meandering stream. In Sheng's painting, we are offered an artistic rendering of the historic gathering of forty-one scholars at the Orchid Pavilion in Shao-hsing in the year 353. According to legend, this was a truly marvelous event, distinguished in the main by the extraordinary talent and illustrious reputation of the literary masters in attendance, among them noted calligraphers, poets, and scholars. Sheng's painting evokes the majesty of the gathering while giving equal attention to the natural splendor of the landscape. In this way, Sheng's Orchid Pavilion exemplifies the larger aim and ambition of Chinese scroll painting: to unite mind with soul, on the one hand, and the viewer with nature, on the other.

In conjunction with the exhibition the Wallach Art Gallery has planned a series of three public lectures:

"The Orchid Pavilion as Event, Image, and Artifact"
Robert Harrist
Thursday, January 22, 6:15 p.m.

"Unlocking the Heritage of Brush"
Marshall Wu
Wednesday, January 28, 6:15 p.m.

"Brief Encounters, Pleasures of Happenstance"
Jonathan Hay
Thursday, February 5, 6:15 p.m.

Orchid Pavilion Gathering: Chinese Painting form the University of Michigan Museum of Art is organized and circulated by the University of Michigan Museum of Art. This exhibition and the accompanying publication are made possible by Ford Motor Company.