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When Honesty Is Not the Best Policy
I want to complain again about a recent practice that departs from the way it used to be done when I was younger.  I have probably written about this before, but the arrival of new publications, including auction catalogs, prompts me to bring up the subject again.
In the early part of my career, when we reproduced Chinese paintings that were old and on silk, and dark with age, we would photograph them with a red filter to lighten the ground tone, then print them in such a way that the ground was light and the image strong.  To be sure, this distorted the real image of the painting, but nobody objected to that.  I do remember that when I was working on my book for Albert Skira, he told me at one point not to change the appearance of the paintings, because he was against “restoration by reproduction.”  Nevertheless, with the help of the photographers Henry Beville, Ray Schwartz, and others, we managed to do the right thing and make the images clear and sharp and strong. 
In more recent times, however, the practice of “honesty” in reproducing old paintings on silk has led to plates in books and auction catalogs that are nothing more than rectangles of dark brown, with no image visible in them. This was true of several reproduction books that I ordered from China, and I have now given up ordering any more, and it’s true of some recent auction catalogs, in which, I assume, the purpose is to let potential buyers know what the painting really looks like. That, to be sure, is “honest”, and I suppose it is the right thing to do.  But it greatly reduces my pleasure in looking at the catalogues, since I can’t really see what the pictures are in many cases.
So I want to advise those publishing Chinese paintings: stop being honest, give us the picture, not the result of centuries of darkening of the silk. 
Big Event Yesterday, Bigger Event to Come
Yesterday at the Institute of East Asian Studies from three in the afternoon a symposium in my honor was held.  I put on my traveling clothes and was taken in my wheelchair by my helpers Katie and Gina, and was able to greet the guests, to speak briefly myself, and to stay through the first of the three papers, the one by Eugene Wang who teaches at Harvard.  Then, alas I was physically uncomfortable, and unable to stay longer, so I came home.  The paper by Nancy Berliner was reportedly very interesting, and elicited a lot of comment. And of course I would have liked to have heard the ones by Richard Vinegrad, once my student, who taught for all of his career at Stanford.  Patricia Berger, my successor here at UC Berkeley, responded to the papers.  I suppose I will be able to read the text of the papers, but that is not at all the same as seeing them with all the pictures.  I was told that Nancy Berliner’s evoked a lot of favorable commentary and discussion. 
The bigger event to come will be on Thanksgiving, when all of my four children will be here--Julian is coming from New York, Nicholas from Madison, Wisconsin bringing three of his daughters with him. So there will be also be four of my grandchildren with Miranda, Sarah and John’s daughter.  I myself will not be able to attend a proper Thanksgiving dinner, but they will all come here for greetings and photographs. 
I myself spoke briefly at the beginning of the symposium, before the papers started; I spoke of how honored I was that scholars of this caliber had done papers for me, and how I hoped I could stay to hear all of them. In fact, I was only able to hear the first, the one by Eugene Wang, before I became uncomfortable and had to leave.  I also spoke briefly about the Chih Garden by Chang Hung--how I had dealt with it in different ways over the decades.  After first seeing it in the 1940s.  And I showed some remarkable images that I had received from China, made by a garden architect in Hangzhou named Ch’en Tzu-yen.  He apparently means to recreate the garden in actuality, if he finds the right place and materials and support.  Meanwhile, he has recreated it remarkably in computer space, or perhaps cyberspace is the right term.  These images seem to show the garden as it might be viewed from a distance, and were completely made within the computer.  I will append two of them here, the one corresponding to Chang Hung’s initial bird’s-eye-view, and another, so you can see what he has done.
James Cahill

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