Arts and Culture
This paper explores the legacy of Ernst Arthur Voretzsch (1868-1965), who had been a consul in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, Wuhan and Tokyo from 1906 to 1933, was a pioneering collector of East Asian art in early twentieth-century Germany. Voretzsch took a broad interest in Asian art and history, and wrote about the subject in journals and books, including Altchinesische Bronzen (1924), Indian Art in Siam (1923) and Die Geschichte Japans (1549-1578) (1926). In 1937, Voretzsch established the Museum of Asian Art in Bamberg, which he directed until 1959, to promote an appreciation of arts of China, Japan and other foreign countries. His estate, which is now scattered in different museums in Germany, gives clues about the German reception of Asian art in the first half of the twentieth century.
As a notable collector and connoisseur of traditional Chinese painting, Voretzsch discussed with friends, including Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919) in America, about his acquisitions and travel experiences in the Far East. He also showed his collection in museum exhibitions and compiled catalogues to illustrate the works in Europe and Japan. This paper will analyse Voretzsch’s taste in Chinese painting, with reference to two rare catalogues compiled by himself in Hamburg and Tokyo in 1913 and 1932, respectively. His cultural interactions with curators and scholars in Europe and Japan, including Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) from the British Museum, Ryuichiro Hama from the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum, and Professor Rikichiro Fukui from Tohoku Imperial University, will also be discussed.