Kristina Kleutghen, assistant professor of art history and archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis, will present her paper, “The Terms of Vision in Late Imperial China,” at the Vanderbilt History Seminar on Monday, October 31, at 3:10 pm in Sarratt 216/20. Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, will serve as commentator for this session.
Kleutghen, who specializes in the visual culture of China’s Qing dynasty, will examine the introduction of Western lenses into China in the 17th century and the impact of these instruments on the ways of seeing. Her paper is part of her most recent book-in-progress, Lens onto the World: Optical Devices, Art, Science, and Society in China, which is the first to study the forgotten relationship between Chinese optical devices and art from the 15th through the early 20th centuries.
When the first Chinese treatise on optics appeared in 1847, it was inspired by the wide range of optical devices that had circulated in China for nearly 300 years. Since these devices were considered more within the realm of art than of science, their presence resulted in a wide range of paintings, prints, and visual culture. These works reveal that the effects of optical devices on vision and visuality arose less from foreignness, as might be expected, than from local culture and social class.
Her first book, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces (University of Washington Press), examines the Qianlong emperor’s use of “scenic illusion paintings” inspired (and produced) by European Jesuit artists as an example of early modern cultural exchange between China and the West.
Kleutghen’s paper is now available in the History Department office, 227 Benson Hall.