Walters Art Museum Presents Realistic Perfection The Making of Oriental Ceramic Art

The Walters Art Museum presents Realistic Perfection: The Making of Oriental Ceramic Art on view March 12–June 4, 2011.

In 1889, William Walters commissioned Louis Prang & Co., the foremost practitioners of the art of chromolithography, to reproduce choice examples of Chinese porcelain from his extensive collection. Chromolithography, now called color lithography, is a printmaking technique that uses a separate stone for each layer of color needed to produce the finished print. Prang’s artisans engaged in the painstaking work of recording every detail of Walters’ vases to produce richly colored lithographs that faithfully captured the surface and color of each ceramic piece. The production of the book took nearly sixteen years and brought together some of the nation’s finest artists and craftspeople.

The resulting publication, Oriental Ceramic Art by Dr. Stephen W. Bushell, was both a catalog of the collection and a work of art unto itself. When the book was released it immediately set a new standard for both the understanding of East Asian ceramics and for the art collection catalogue. To this day it remains a monument of great importance in the history of chromolithography and documents the foundation of one of America’s greatest collections of Asian porcelain. This focus show takes the visitor through the production of Oriental Ceramic Art beginning with Chinese porcelain from the Walters collection and its watercolor portrait. It showcases a series of progressive proofs illustrating the exacting technique used to create the luxurious prints bound into this important early catalog.

Image: Oriental Ceramic Art, The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum, located in Baltimore, Maryland’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, is a public art museum founded in 1934. The museum’s collection was amassed substantially by two men, William Thompson Walters (1819-1894), who began serious collecting when he moved to Paris at the outbreak of the American Civil War, and his son Henry Walters (1848–1931), who refined the collection and rehoused it in a palazzo building on Charles Street which opened in 1909. Upon his death, Henry Walters bequeathed the collection of over 22,000 works and the original Charles Street palazzo building to the city of Baltimore, “for the benefit of the public.” The collection touches masterworks of ancient Egypt, Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi, medieval ivories, illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance bronzes, Old Master and 19th-century paintings, Chinese ceramics and bronzes, and Art Deco jewelry.

The Walters Art Museum
600 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
T: 410.547.9000
www.thewalters.org

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