Lehrveranstaltungen FS 2019


Introduction to Korean Art

Natasha Fischer-Vaidya, lic. phil.
Mittwoch, 14:00–15:45

This course offers an overview of Korean art, starting from its earliest expressions in the Neolithic period up to and including contemporary art. A wide range of art forms will be covered, that includes painting, architecture, ceramics, and lacquerware, among others. The artworks will be discussed in various topical contexts (such as tomb art, religious art, and folk art) as well as in the context of history and geography.

This class is an introductory level course and is open to students of all levels, including beginners with no prior knowledge of Korean or East Asian art. Class requirements will consist of written assignments (e.g. object description / annotated bibliography / text summary / essay), short oral presentations, and written exams. The course will be held in English and German. All assignments may be completed in either of the two languages.


Vernacular Art of China and Japan

Sabine Bradel, M.A. and Alina Martimyanova M.A.
Donnerstag, 10:15–11:45 Uhr

This course aims to explore and contextualize various forms and aspects of the vernacular art produced in China and Japan from prehistory until our days. The term “vernacular”, especially used in the expression “vernacular art” is imbued with different, often problematic layers of meaning. How we understand “vernacular art” depends on the definitions we choose to use, characteristics we choose to accept or exclude, and the chronological boundaries influencing our specific inquiries. Does “vernacular” imply “ordinary” and “common” as opposed to the “elite” and “high”? Does vernacular presuppose modes of expression stemming from the “amateur” and the “untrained”? Or on the contrary, as in the case of “vernacular painting” of late imperial China, to name just one example, bases itself on the work of the skilled professionals? Does it relate primarily to creations made in specific locations, for example, when we speak of “vernacular architecture”? We shall start with theoretical investigation of this term and other ideas related to it, reflecting on its application in cultural regions of East Asia in order to work out a common framework.

The seminar will consist primarily of presentations on individual research topics and group discussions, complemented by theoretical and case study sessions by the class instructors. Possible subjects of the seminar presentations include, but are not limited to, vernacular painting, book illustration, woodblock prints, erotic art, ceramics, objects of folk religion, various theatrical forms, architecture and gardens.

Please note that the class will be taught in English and German and many of the required readings are in English as well. The required written assignments and oral presentations can be submitted both in English and in German. Knowledge of Chinese, Korean or Japanese may be helpful but is not required.


Revisiting "Connoisseurship"

Prof. Dr. Hans B. Thomsen

Mittwoch 10:15-11:45

James Boswell quotes a letter by Mrs. Thrale in the Life of Johnson: “[t]his morning it was all connoisseurship; we went to see some pictures.” The words connoisseurship and connoisseur, from which it originates, have a long history. The source of the words stems from the Middle-French connoistre or connaître meaning "to be acquainted with" or "to know somebody/something." This was understood as a person who was knowledgeable about art, food, or wine; an expert in matters of taste. Thus, for Mrs. Thrale the viewing of paintings was seen as an exercise in good taste.

The term connoisseurship has, however, long been a site of conflict within the discipline of art history. In 1890, for example, Giovanni Morelli wrote that "art connoisseurs say of art historians that they write about what they do not understand; art historians, on their side, disparage the connoisseurs, and only look upon them as the drudges who collect materials for them, but who personally have not the slightest knowledge of the physiology of art." In turn, Panofsky, in his Meaning in the Visual Arts (1955), Erwin writes that "the connoisseur might be defined as a laconic art historian, and the art historian as a loquacious connoisseur."

The term also describes a long-standing site of conflict within various fields of art historical specialization: between those working within academia and those working in museums. The former believes that the idea of connoisseurship is no longer relevant and should not be part of its teaching duties, while the latter believes that connoisseurship is essential for the daily work of understanding objects within museums. The problem has intensified in the latter years, so much so that calling an art historian a connoisseur will often be perceived as a mortal insult.

In this seminar, we will revisit the topic of connoisseurship. Using examples from East Asia, we will examine the uses and relevance of the word and its meaning. We will also look at the situation in the western world, but the focus will be on the different ways that the concept has been understood in East Asia: not only in academia and in the museum, but also in the field of archaeology.


War and Peace in East Asian Art

Prof. Dr. Hans B. Thomsen
Freitag, 12:15–13:45 Uhr

Wars bring out vivid reactions of human expression. This is the case in a variety of fields, including literature, politics, poetry, and the arts. Artists depict war in various forms: for example, as a visual record of events, as propaganda for or against war, or as sheer visual spectacle.

Through art, war and peace can be expressed and understood - or misinterpreted - in ways that would not have been possible in written texts. Through the arts, men and women are shown waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering, celebrating, or being wounded or killed. We can see how certain political factions or nations achieve advantage or victory over others: artists can remain aloof from personal associations or - at other times - embrace the causes and consequences of conflicts. Often taking on educational goals - especially in the recreation of historical events and contexts - depictions of war and peace can also be used to skewer facts and to urge certain propagandistic points of view.

In this series of lectures, we will first examine the idea war and peace in art and then examine various historical periods and themes within this larger category of art. Our focus will be on East Asian expressions, and we will not only look at older forms from the medieval period and before, but also with a special emphasis on the tumultuous twentieth century. We will also examine the topic in various media, such as painting, woodblock prints, and textile designs. Through these examples and discussions, we hope to come to a better understanding of how art can be used in connection to both war and peace.



Kolloquium für Studierende des Masterstudiengangs und Doktorierende

Prof. Hans B. Thomsen
Donnerstag, 14:15 –15:45 Uhr (14-tägig)

14-tägige Sitzungen für fortgeschrittene Studierende der Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens. Studierende, die an MA-Arbeiten oder Dissertationen arbeiten, stellen ihre laufenden Projekte vor. Der Ablauf des Semesters wird in der ersten Sitzung festgelegt. Abhängig von der Anzahl der Teilnehmenden, können auch kunsthistorische Texte diskutiert werden.


Survey of the collections in Freiburg im Breisgau (11.03.2019- 15.03.2019)

Prof. Hans B. Thomsen

The East Asian collections of Freiburg im Breisgau museums contain the collections of the ethnologist Prof. Dr. Ernst Grosse, who taught at the Freiburg University and worked at times as a curator of the municipal collections and many others. During the survey, students will spend a week with these objects in museum storage. Students will have a chance to conduct pioneering research on one these objects, most of which have never been exhibited or scientifically described. Participants will work with Prof Thomsen and others and will learn up-to-date survey methods. After the survey, the class will meet in Zurich at times to be determined in order to finish the objects descriptions.

The preliminary meeting will take place on February 21 at 17:00. Your participation is essential, so make sure you can be there or let us know in advance, so we can think of further arrangements.

The excursion cannot be booked via the module booking system. Please contact Natasha Fischer-Vaidya (natasha.fischer@khist.uzh.ch) by February 1, 2019, with a short motivation letter (as an attachment in Word or PDF format) explaining your interest in the excursion. Please also indicate your current level (BA or MA) and your matriculation number. The number of participants is limited to ten and students of all levels are encouraged to apply.


Excursion to Ascona: The Paintings of Monte Verità  (27.02.2019- 28.02.2019)

Prof. Hans B. Thomsen

The world-class treasures from around the world amassed by the baron Eduard Von der Heydt (1882-1964) form the backbone of the museum Rietberg’s permanent collection. They had a complex history, as they were entrusted to various museums during the war and graced his homes, first in Holland and then later in Monte Verità in Ascona. When the museum Rietberg was founded in 1952 around the Von der Heydt’s collection, most of his objects were brought to the museum from around the world, including those from Monte Verità.

However, some of the paintings and prints hanging on the walls of Monte Verità were either forgotten or neglected, and never taken. Perhaps they were thought of as an integral part of the architecture. Today they are still there, works from China and Japan of a very high artistic value. Despite their importance, they have not been published not have they been worked on in a scientific manner. The survey will examine and describe the works on the walls of the various buildings and rooms of the Monte Verità complex. Together with Prof Thomsen, the students will engage in a professional survey of the paintings and prints and will take in the completion of an excel spreadsheet of the objects. 4 ECTS will be awarded upon the successful completion of the individual assignments.

The survey will consist of: 1) a preliminary overview of art survey techniques (February 22, 14:00-16:00, in RAK 208). Your participation at the meeting is obligatory. 2) 2 days of survey in Ascona on Feb 27-28, 2019 3) Group research work in Zurich to finish the database (two days, dates to be determined via doodle). Students on any level (BA, MA, PhD) can participate, however, a background in either Japanese or Chinese language would be helpful.

The excursion cannot be booked via the module booking system. Please contact Natasha Fischer-Vaidya (natasha.fischer@khist.uzh.ch) by February 1, 2019, with a short motivation letter (as an attachment in Word or PDF format) explaining your interest in the excursion. Please also indicate your current level (BA or MA) and your matriculation number. The number of participants is limited to five and students of all levels are encouraged to apply. A portion of travel expenses for the train and accommodation will be reimbursed. .