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3 September 2011

Next Meeting Saturday, 24 September

Bottle-shaped vases, Kangxi period (1662-1722 C.E)
F|S Collection

The next meeting of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group will take place on Saturday, 24 September, starting at 5:30pm at the home of Molly and Dave Raymond. (Address redacted) The title of Dave Raymond’s presentation is “Chinamania in Potomac”. He will discuss their collection of Qing dynasty blue and white porcelains, and how he and wife Molly got started collecting 17th and 18th century Chinese export porcelains for the European market. This meeting will be a potluck dinner, when you RSVP to David or Hedy Rehfuss say what dish you plan to bring. RSVP by replying to this email, or, or 703-503-3195.

Synopsis of the 7 June 2011 meeting

We started in Freer Storage with a handling session of a dozen 17th century Qing dynasty (1644-1911 C.E.) monochrome porcelains, akin to those in the National Gallery of Art’s superlative collection of imperial Qing wares. The Freer’s small, exquisite monochromes were good introduction to the porcelains of the NGA. After the handling we walked over to the NGA and surveyed its Qing porcelains.

Dominating the entrance to the NGA’s ceramic galleries are two cases of ox blood glazed copper red vases from the early Qing. The heart of NGA collection is 80 small, exquisite imperial monochrome vessels largely dating to Kangxi period (1662-1722 C.E.) in peach bloom, Claire de Lune pale blue, apple green, pale celadon green and white glazes. Very large, showy overglaze enameled vases line the walls of the two galleries.

In the Qing dynasty porcelain design and technique evolved in two major directions. 1) Monochrome wares exhibited a range of subtle colors, some inspired by Sung, Yuan, and early Ming dynasty (11th-15th century) glazes, others experimenting with new tones. 2) Polychrome wares greatly expanded upon the Ming repertory of overglaze enamel colors. The enlarged palette enabled the decorators to produce pictorial decoration closely related to contemporary painting. The NGA collection has many examples of both styles.

The new Peacock Room

As many of you know Freer’s Peacock Room was recently re-installed with the ceramics that Mr. Freer used when the Peacock Room was in his Detroit mansion. The effect is totally different from its earlier incarnation. In place of the bright Qing blue and white porcelains in the late 19th century style of London’s “Chinamania”, the room today glows with the much more subtle tones of Sung, Yuan and Ming stonewares, somber golden luster-wares of mediaeval Syria and Iraq, Korean celadons and Japanese tea utensils. Mr. Freer in his collecting aimed to find harmonies between different civilizations and cultures and in this installation it all comes together. It’s always an special pleasure to view old pots sitting outside of their glassy vitrines, as we can here.

Every third Thursday afternoon of the month the room’s shutters will be opened. The flood of natural light makes the old pots glow like jewels.

Modern Japanese Ceramics

A new show of 20th century Japanese ceramics opened last month in the Sackler. “Reinventing the Wheel: Japanese Ceramics 1930–2000” displays high-fired works made by studio artists after World War II. Most are traditional vessels of the highest quality. Like the powerful stoneware bottle with wood ash glaze by the great HAMADA Shoji that recalls mediaeval wares of central Japan. FUKAMI Sueharu is known for his pressure-formed porcelain objects of immense size and technical complexity. In this show we are presented another vision. On display is a small Fukami incense burner of transparent blue glaze evoking the Kyoto tradition of meticulous, harmonious design and execution.

Three of ceramics displayed are striking sculptural pieces. My favorite is YAGI Akira’s “Vestige 93-2”, constructed of two slabs of matte white porcelain stained with orange-red lacquer sitting on a blonde wooden plank. Strikingly abstractly it reminds one of a Henry Moore bronze monolith.

The ten pieces in the show are drawn from the F|S collection of about a hundred modernist examples which represent significant trends in Japanese ceramics since the 1930s. Many of the pieces on display were donated by members of the WOCG. The exhibition continues indefinitely.

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