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Robert Mowry

China, Korea and Japan:
Separate but Overlapping Ceramic Traditions

Monday, October 11, 2021

2 PM via Zoom

Chinese--Ming--Copper-red Dish--JDR 3rd, Asia Society.jpg

This lecture will briefly introduce the later ceramic traditions of China, Korea, and Japan, from 1100 onward, touching on mainstream developments in each culture, illustrating points of influence and overlap, but also pointing out characteristics that distinguish the ceramics of one culture from those of the next, characteristics that arose from differing historical backgrounds, aesthetic preferences, and functional needs.

Chinese wares of all periods influenced those of Korea and Japan; during periods of initial development of new wares, Korean and Japanese potters typically strove to emulate Chinese wares, whether celadons in Korea or blue-and-white porcelains in Japan, but after achieving technical and aesthetic mastery, Korean and Japanese potters put their own stamp on their wares, resulting in new styles and techniques of decoration.


In surveying the Chinese tradition, we'll explore the monochrome-glazed stonewares of the Song dynasty (960-1279), the blue-and-white wares of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and the enameled porcelains of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).  In the Korean tradition, we'll examine the celadon wares of the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) and both the blue-and-white porcelains and the brown-and-white wares of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).  And in the Japanese tradition, we'll look at the ash-glazed stonewares, typically storage jars for tea leaves, of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and both the enameled porcelains and the enameled stonewares of the Edo period (1603-1867).  It will be an Orient Express through 900 years of East Asian ceramics!


Named Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus on his retirement early in 2017, Robert Mowry worked at the Harvard Art Museums for more than thirty-seven years, with more than twenty-five of those years as a senior curator.  Robert Mowry previously served as the founding Curator of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at The Asia Society, New York (1980-1986), and, before that, as Assistant Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum (1977-1980).  His two years' work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Korea (1967-1969) sparked his interest in Asian art and culture.  He did his graduate work at the University of Kansas (1971-1975), studying with Laurence Sickman and Chu-tsing Li, after which he spent two years as a curatorial assistant and translator in the Department of Painting and Calligraphy at the National Palace Museum, Taipei (1975-1977).  A specialist in Chinese art, he also does research on Korean art.  He has numerous publications to his credit, the best known of which is Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers: Chinese Brown- and Black- Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, the catalogue of his 1995 exhibition that opened at Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum in 1995 and then toured nationally in 1996. Appointed the National Museum of Korea's Senior International Fellow on his 2013 retirement from Harvard, he also served for three years (2013-2016) as the senior editor of that museum's scholarly journal, The Journal of Korean Art and Archaeology.  In September 2013 Christie's, New York, engaged Robert Mowry as a Senior Consultant on Chinese and Korean art, an association that continues today.  In that capacity, he lectures, does research on important individual works of art, and writes scholarly notes and essays for catalogues; he works daily with Christie's New York office but also has responsibilities toward the London, Paris, and Hong Kong offices as well.

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