Acquiring Chinese art and culture: The collections and scholarship of John C. Ferguson (1866--1945).
|About the Book|
The Canadian-born American, John C. Ferguson (1866-1945), lived in China from 1887 through 1943, working as a Methodist missionary, government adviser, and dealer, scholar, and collector of Chinese art. How Ferguson affected and was affected byMoreThe Canadian-born American, John C. Ferguson (1866-1945), lived in China from 1887 through 1943, working as a Methodist missionary, government adviser, and dealer, scholar, and collector of Chinese art. How Ferguson affected and was affected by changing definitions of Chinese art throughout those five decades is the primary question of this dissertation. My exploration of Fergusons association with Chinas political and cultural elite, critical to his access to art objects, simultaneously reveals the cosmopolitan nature of late nineteenth and early twentieth century China, and the active role played by late Qing collectors and Republican-era archeologists in transmitting Chinese things and knowledge about them to the West.-In the first decade of the twentieth century, through his association with Duanfang, Ferguson was introduced to jinshi scholarship- this vibrant culture of antiquarianism would profoundly influence his future collection of ancient bronzes and pottery, calligraphy and rubbings. In the same period, Ferguson made his first contributions to a Western dialogue on Chinese art as a member of Shanghais North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.-In the 1910s, the contacts Ferguson had established among Peking collectors, including Wanyan Jingxian and Jin Cheng, allowed him to become an effective dealer of Chinese art for museums in the United States. Ferguson bought for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Charles Freer, among others. The confluence of American demand for and limited knowledge about Chinese paintings and objects, and the increased availability of these things, was also critical to Fergusons success.-Fergusons private collection, donated in 1934 to the University of Nanking (now Nanjing University), manifests the value the foreign collector placed on his connections with renowned collectors of his own and earlier generations. The newly excavated objects that Ferguson acquired in the 1920s and 1930s also reveal his engagement with modern archeology in China and his interaction with scholars such as Ma Heng, who contributed to the emerging field.-In his English language publications, Ferguson argued in cultural nationalist terms that Chinas autochthonous culture was the basis of Chinese art. His theory was intended to disprove Western opinion that Chinese things were not fine art, and to challenge Ernest Fenollosas condemnation of literati painting. As archeological discoveries rapidly altered Chinese and Western knowledge of Chinas past, however, Ferguson was not able to thoroughly integrate the new finds into his narrative. The most lasting of Fergusons books have proven to be his Chinese language indexes of recorded paintings and bronzes, accomplished with the help of the multi-generational circle of associates that this resident scholar cultivated in Peking.