Michael J. Hatch, November 8

Michael J. Hatch, PhD, Assistant Professor of East Asian Art History, Department of Art, Miami University

“Epigraphy, Ruan Yuan, and the Haptic Imagination in Early Nineteenth-Century Chinese Painting”

Respondent: Meng Zhao, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Friday, November 8, 2019

4:30-6:30 pm, CWAC 156

Refreshments and a catered dinner will be provided


Abstract: The study of ancient cast and inscribed objects among early nineteenth-century literati brought together the senses of vision and touch. Scholars, officials, and artists obsessively documented texts and images found on degraded stone steles or oxidized bronzes. As they did so their brushwork increasingly emulated the effects of aging on these materials. This epigraphic aesthetic bridged media through visual and conceptual languages that were applied as readily to stone and metal inscriptions as they were to paintings and calligraphy. Scholars began to see in terms that were tactile.

Ruan Yuan (1764–1849), one of the early nineteenth-century’s most influential government officials and scholars, was central to this. His essays, “The Northern and Southern Schools of Calligraphy,” and “Northern Steles, Southern Letters,” provide the clearest articulation of the values at the core of the epigraphic aesthetic. Likewise, paintings, inkstones, and rubbings produced within his broad network of friends and aides attest to the manifestation of an early nineteenth-century haptic imagination across media.


This paper is excerpted from the speaker’s book manuscript, The Senses of Painting in China, 1790-1840, a sensory history that explores the appeals to embodied memory made in early nineteenth-century literati painting through allusions to touch, sound, and smell.

Liuzhou (1791—1858), Full-Form Rubbing of A Wild-Goose-Foot-Shaped Lamp, 47.8*26cm

This event is sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou (zhenru@zhenruzhou.com) and Yin Wu (yinwu@uchicago.edu).


Michael J. Hatch is an Assistant Professor of East Asian art at Miami University in Ohio. He earned a PhD in Art and Architecture from Princeton University in 2015. Prof. Hatch has held fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Princeton University Art Museum. Before graduate school, he worked in auctions and galleries, spending three years in Beijing at China Guardian Auctions and one year in New York at Kaikodo Gallery.


His research focuses on the interplay between sensuous, material, and intellectual modes of viewing Chinese painting, and ranges from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century. His current book manuscript is The Senses of Painting in China, 1790-1840. He has articles forthcoming in Archives of Asian Art and the Metropolitan Museum Journal.


Meng Zhao is a PhD candidate at the Department of Art History, University of Chicago. She studies Chinese art with a particular focus on painting practice of Middle Period China (ca. 800-1400). Meng received her BA in Chinese Language and Literature at Fudan University and her MA in History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS University of London. Her master’s dissertation addressed a dramaturgical schema activated by the act of gazing frequently depicted in the Southern Song (1127-1279) court painting. Meng is particularly interested in the tension between the understanding of paintings as self-knowledge and the social dimensions of aesthetic mentalities, and in the sensuous credibility of pictorial representation of the middle period.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *