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Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Brief History of Chinese Watercolors on Pith Paper

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., boasts in its collection twelve pith paintings from China.

Crafted mainly for export to the United States and Europe, works on pith paper date mainly to the early 19th century.

As chinoiserie—“romanticized European imitation of Chinese art eventually copied by the Chinese themselves for export”—developed as a popularized aesthetic for collectors in the west, works on pith paper served as an economical medium to whet the western appetite for emblematic motifs of Chinese art.

Pith paper originated from the inner tissue of the Tetrapanax Papyrifera, a tree found in southwest China; artfully cut by hand with a knife, the sheets were then dried and later trimmed before use.

Because of the challenging nature of precisely cutting the thin sheets, the largest works on pith paper usually measure no more than 8” X 12.”

Watercolors on pith paper take on a vibrant quality.

Works on pith paper were primarily created for tourism and export; the mass-produced watercolors, distinct from the refined landscape paintings revered by the literati, are rarely signed.

The 1830’s and 1840’s saw the most prolific output of watercolors on pith; the invention and widespread popularity of photography soon eclipsed the demand for pith paintings.

To view a watercolor on pith paper, therefore, is to witness a narrow piece of history.

Should you desire to view the series of twelve watercolors on pith at Mir Appraisal Services, Inc., please do email: or call (312) 814-8510.

Researched and Written by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser and Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works Cited

Cohen, Warren I. East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International

Relations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Haddad, John Rogers. The Romance of China: Excursions to China in U.S. Culture,

1776-1876. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.