Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Celebrating Asian & Pacific Island Heritage Month: a brilliant survey of the arts of China


Sullivan, Michael, The Three Perfections: Chinese Paintings, Poetry and Calligraphy (George Braziller, rev. ed., 1999). ISBN 0-8076-1452-1. The former Slade Professor of Art at Oxford and Cambridge explains how painting, poetry and calligraphy come together in Chinese visual art. Hardcover, octavo, 86 pp. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, fine condition. HBB price: $125 obo.

Professor Donovan Michael Sullivan lived almost a century, and when he left, behind him lay a mass of scholarship unequaled in the history of modern Chinese art.

After prep school at Rugby, Sullivan read architecture at Cambridge. Graduating in 1939, he volunteered for a Quaker mission to the Chinese Red Cross. He remained there, a pacifist medical volunteer, through the war.

Becoming acquainted with Chinese art, even in the most fraught times, changed his life. He took a job in a Chinese museum until forced out by the 1949 revolution. Obtaining a lectureship in the University of Malaya, he produced his pioneering history of modern Chinese art in 1959.

Academic preferments came: Stanford (1966-84); then a fellowship at St Catz, Oxford, where he was active until his death. He was the Slade Professor of Art in 1973-74.

No mere critic, Sullivan- with his Chinese wife, Khoan, amassed the best collection of modern Chinese art outside the country over 74 years of visits, and the nation he thought his second home honored him, at 95, with an exhibition at the National Museum of China. The Sullivans left their collections to Oxford’s Ashmolean, where they occupy galleries of prominence and honor.

The Three Perfections, written by Sullivan in his 80s, is the work of a man at the top of his form. Elegant, accessible, and well-illustrated, it is an invitation to worlds unknown by a guide ready to make all familiar.

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