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on 12 December 2013
Illustrations too small and some so dark that they are unreadable. Not a book that has been well thought through. So very disappointed in it that I had to return it. Does not even begin to compare to the 'Masterpieces of Japanese Screen Printing, by Miyeko Murase' published by George Braziller in layout and production which is superb.
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on 26 August 2014
This is not the best guide you can find on Chinese paintings. You would expect better illustrations for some of the most famous paintings such as The Night Revels of Han Xizai or Along the River during Qingming Festival, and as others have note, some of the illustrations are far too dark to see properly. Whether some of the paintings used are masterpieces or not is arguable, but not to give fuller descriptions of acknowledged masterpieces is just odd, and here some masterpieces are simply omitted in favour of lesser work. Some of the assertions in there are debatable, strange also is ignoring Giuseppe Castiglione when discussing European influence.
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on 9 December 2015
26 October 2013 - 19 January 2014. Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 - 1900 brought together the finest examples of Chinese painting from the beginning of the 8th to the end of the 19th century, from small-scale intimate works by monks and literati through to scroll paintings over 14 metres long, many of which had never before been seen in the UK.

Some of the pictures are quit dark.Otherwise very good product.
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on 17 June 2015
I rarely write reviews but this is a wonderful book which I had delayed buying until now because of earlier negative reviews here. Do not be put off. This is an excellent publication which is well worth the money. It is well organised, has marvellous illustrations and provides a wealth of information on the artists. The illustrations are large and clear, and certainly compare well with other similar books I have.
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on 26 November 2014
A brilliant insight into China's Cultural History, with excellent images.
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on 11 December 2013
The V&A exhibition was disappointing since it wasn't possible to get a clear view - the low light for preservation purposes was understandable but frustrating. This book covers most of the contents in surprising detail.
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on 4 September 2014
Very good
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on 16 July 2015
As some other reviewers have noted, this book is a bit of a disappointment. From my perspective, some of those reviews are exaggerated - this book is still one of the best on Chinese painting, and while many pictures are too small or too dark, they are still some of the best available in a book of this sort. Indeed, there are many large, detailed pictures which are the best of those particular paintings in any English book I know of.

It's worth keeping in mind what the book is intended to be: it's not a history of Chinese art. It's an exhibition catalogue, with all the lacunae that entails.

As is usual with catalogues, it falls into two sections - academic essays in the first part, and the pictures from the exhibition with a brief essay on each in the second.

That means you do get a picture of every painting in the exhibition. Commendably, and this is where the book is unique, every painting is shown in full - from tiny fans to 17 meter scrolls. Bigger paintings also tend to have zoomed-in detail shots, often full-page. These are great.

Getting the full painting means you can see what many other books just show details of, and really see things in context.

But this is also a flaw: particularly where smaller objects get only a single page, and are squeezed into a small space. Some of the fans in particular aren't worth looking at, as the pictures are, as others have said, ridiculously small.

You do get the impression that a more creative use of space would have allowed much bigger pictures - a willingness to reflow text and use up more of the whitespace would have improved the book immeasurably.

Frankly, though, I think the text is more of a disappointment. It feels neither seriously academic nor suitable for people who just want to learn about the paintings. Many of the discussions of individual paintings are dominated by questions about provenance and authorship - usually denying that the traditional ascriptions are correct. Like many English readers, I don't care that much - tell me about the painting!

In the space they have available, a discussion of the painting, its styles and influences, would have been far more useful to most people.

Similarly, the essays which open the volume are a bit of a missed opportunity. They concentrate on the technical (rather than stylistic) aspects of Chinese painting - the development of the different painting media and grounds, social position of painters, seal marks and inscriptions, and, at considerable length, the collecting of Chinese paintings in Europe, China and Japan, particularly over the last couple of centuries. These may add to the academic literature (I'm not sure) but some are pretty dull. They are, though, illustrated with small but useful examples of painting, including many great paintings which were not in the exhibition.

I'm very interested in Chinese painting and did find the essays moderately enjoyable, but they certainly aren't for everyone! And I suspect that most people, including myself, would much more enjoy discussion of the styles, subjects, and development of painting.

Basically, this is a nice second book to get on Chinese painting - I wouldn't buy it as my first! If you want a good, well-illustrated history of the subject, then Richard Barnhart's Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting is much better. There are also a number of smaller books on different types of painting. This does give a good range of beautiful paintings, and is worth buying for that. But, especially at this price, it is very much a missed opportunity - the paintings are not shown well, either in size or lighting, nor are the essays in the volume anywhere near as interesting to your average Western enjoyer of paintings as they might be.
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on 15 January 2014
This was a wonderful and revelatory exhibition but I was stopped from buying the catalogoue as a memento by the poor, sometimes minute, sometimes poorly displayed reproductions. What a missed opportunity by the V and A to provide a lasting visual record of this rarely seen material.
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on 21 November 2013
It is a Valuable item!
But it is toooooo heavy!
Some of the paintings are too dark and can't be seen the details.
It is better to watch the exhibition again.
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