The Museum's collection of Chinese art, spanning 5,000 years, has grown from the approximately 130 works given by founder Ralph Norton to more than 700 objects. His acquisitions form two outstanding bookends to the Chinese Collection: ancient jade and bronze, and imperial jade and hardstone carvings dating from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 ) to the Republic period (1912- 1949). A seminal early work from Norton’s gifts includes a 3,200 year-old cast bronze wine ewer (gong) in the form of a dragon, which is a composite of many powerful creatures – tiger, bear, elephant, bird, and antelope. A seminal late work in the collection is an alms bowl with seven buddhas, commissioned in 1777 by the Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1736 until 1795.

Over the years, Ralph Norton's gifts have been supplemented with other significant works of art illustrating the aesthetic values, technical achievements and cultural beliefs of this vast country. These works include: a painting by Ming dynasty master Tang Yin (1470–1523), titled The Nine Bends River, which links the personal qualities of man with Confucian moral values; one of the world’s finest extant pairs of 17th-century lacquered cabinets (1662–1700) made during the reign of the Qing dynasty emperor Kangxi; and Five Quail, a 13th-century painting influenced by one of China’s best known quail painters, Li An-Zhong (Southern Song dynasty, circa 1120-1160) that sends a subtle message about life in unstable times.

Chinese Collection Highlights

Laurie Barnes

​Elizabeth B. McGraw Curator of Chinese Art
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Laurie Barnes

​Elizabeth B. McGraw Curator of Chinese Art
(561) 832-5196​​ x1125

Laurie Barnes is Elizabeth B. McGraw Curator of Chinese Art at the Norton Museum of Art (2006-present). From 2006-2019, Ms. Barnes has organized: over 45 thematic rotations in the Chinese galleries and the re-installations of masterworks from the Norton’s Chinese collection (2017 and 2019). Special exhibitions included of High Tea: Glorious Manifestations East and West (2015), Channeling Immortality: Chinese Scholars’ Rocks (2018), Good Fortune to All (2019). Two traveling exhibitions have dealt with the impact of exported Asian ceramics: On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics Culture and Commerce (2011) and Silk Road to Clipper Ship: Trade, Changing Markets and East Asian Ceramics (2005).

Ms. Barnes specializes in Chinese imperial porcelain of the 14th and 15th centuries. She contributed to the following publications: the Yuan dynasty to the Yale University and Beijing Foreign Languages Press volume entitled Chinese Ceramics: From the Paleolithic Period through the Qing Dynasty (2010), the exhibition catalog Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China (2015), an article on the Norton’s new Chinese Galleries ( Orientations magazine, November -December 2018), and an updated entry on the Ming dynasty calligrapher Zhu Yunming (1460-1525, Grove Dictionary of Art online, 2019).  During her long friendship with the Jingdezhen Institute of Ceramic Archaeology in China, she raised funds for and headed the establishment of the first conservation laboratory at the site of the Chinese imperial kilns, as well as translating research on some of their most important finds, including an article in Orientations magazine (September, 1995).

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