Laurence Binyon : a pioneering and authoritative curator of Chinese painting in early twentieth-century Britain

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Journal article

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Museum History Journal

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Laurence Binyon; British Museum; Chinese painting; curator


A dedicated curator of Oriental Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, Laurence Binyon devoted much effort to the acquisition, exhibition and publication of the pictorial arts of Japan, China, India, and Persia from the 1900s to the 1930s. His pioneering scholarship of Chinese painting impressed the collectors, artists, and scholars of his time. Binyon’s study of Chinese painting in the former part of his career relied on Japanese and Western collections and publications. He had not gained first-hand experience in China or come into direct contact with Chinese scholars until the late 1920s, when his scholarship in Asian painting matured. However, the assistance of Arthur Waley and Chinese scholars in the English translation of Chinese texts, as well as Chiang Yee’s writings on Chinese painting and calligraphy amplified Binyon’s vision of Chinese connoisseurship in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Considering Binyon’s role as a pioneering curator in shaping the knowledge of Chinese painting in early twentieth-century Britain, this article illuminates the way he formulated and disseminated his ideas of Chinese painting to the general public. It also examines Binyon’s connections with Chinese artists in London and their cultural exchange in the 1930s that affirmed his achievement as the authority on Chinese painting through Chinese eyes.



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Huang, M. Y.-L. (2015). Laurence Binyon : a pioneering and authoritative curator of Chinese painting in early twentieth-century Britain. Museum History Journal, 8(1), 41-58. doi: 10.1179/1936981614Z.00000000038