Scroll Collection Facilitates Study of Chinese Art History

— Tricia Dickson ’08

This reproduction of a 1366 Chinese scroll titled “Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains” is one of 78 in Southwestern’s facsimile scroll collection. The collection is an integral part of Southwestern’s Asian art history curriculum.

Among the faculty members who went to China in 1988 as part of Southwestern’s “Focus on Asia” program was Thomas Howe, professor of art and art history. While there, Howe used some of the grant money Southwestern received from the Pew Charitable Trust and the National Endowment for the Humanities to purchase 70 Chinese facsimile hanging scrolls, fans and album leaves that are high-quality photographic reproductions of ancient Chinese scrolls.

These scrolls come from the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which commissioned the production of facsimile scrolls for more than 400 pieces from their collection. In addition to scale, they are printed in a way that renders them as true as possible in texture and color to the originals; those which represent originals on silk are printed on facsimile fabric.

“They even smell like ink,” Howe says.

Howe chose scrolls that were representative of Chinese art from the Six Dynasties through the Ming Dynasty. In 2003, Southwestern received a grant from the Freeman Foundation which enabled the University to purchase eight additional scrolls. These acquisitions helped fill gaps in the collection.

“The Southwestern University facsimile scroll collection provides students with the unique opportunity to examine high-quality reproductions of Chinese painting,” says Diana Tenckhoff, an assistant professor of art history who now oversees the scroll collection. “Students are able to create exhibits with the scrolls and really get a feel for how it is done in the professional world.”

Tenckhoff says the scrolls are now an integral part of Southwestern’s Asian art history curriculum. “The scrolls are an invaluable resource because they provide the opportunity to investigate what it would be like to work with original works of art,” she says.