There is an intimate connection between Chinese art and human relationships. Friends gather to unroll and view their favorite paintings. Moving letters brushed in expressive calligraphy are cherished and preserved for centuries. Wan-go H. C. Weng, one of the most respected collectors and connoisseurs of Chinese painting in the US, recalls watching and listening as a young boy while his family admired and discussed works of art.
In 2018, Weng made the largest gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy to the MFA in the institution’s history, comprising 183 objects that were acquired and passed down through six generations of his family. This exhibition features approximately 20 works from the gift that relate to concepts of family and friends.
“Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Family and Friends” includes paintings and calligraphy by some of the greatest masters from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. The intimate Suzhou Sceneries (1484–1504) album describes Shen Zhou’s travels with friends around his home regions. The calligraphy in Nine Letters to Home (1523), written by Wen Zhengming to his wife and sons, displays a spontaneity of style rarely found in the artist’s more formal works. The most recent piece in the exhibition is a handscroll painted by Wan-go H. C. Weng himself, Elegant Gathering at the Laixiju Studio (1990). The contemporary work commemorates a momentous gathering of friends—including six esteemed historians of Chinese paintings—held at the collector’s home in 1985.
This is the first in a series of three exhibitions celebrating the landmark donation made by Wan-go H. C. Weng, a longtime supporter of the MFA who has devoted himself to the preservation and study of China’s cultural heritage.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website