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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: The “Eight Brokens” (Bapo)
Date: 1929
Medium: Fan: ink and light colors on paper
Dimensions: Image: 8 7/8 x 18 7/8 inches (22.5 x 47.9 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the Membership Purchase Fund
Object Number: 81.059
Label Text: Waste Papers, dating most likely to the early twentieth century, is part of the genre known as bapo. Literally translated as “the eight brokens” (eight is an auspicious number in Chinese culture), the style could take the form of scrolls or fan paintings such as this one, and was also used to decorate plates, bowls, and snuff bottles. In essence, bapo renders fragments of paintings, book pages, rubbings from bronze sculptures, burnt calligraphy, and other ephemera in meticulous trompe-l’oeil collage in which even the smallest details, such as postal stamps, seals, and the tears and folds of paper are appreciable.
The style has been interpreted as an adaptation of traditional Chinese painting into European collage as pioneered by artists including Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. However, curator Nancy Berliner at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, argues instead that bapo was a commercial genre fashionable among those familiar with but not necessarily members of the literati class, and that its multiple references and preoccupation with illusionism were in part influenced by the advent of new technologies such as photography. In this way, bapo painters paid tribute to the cultural memory of the past while also highlighting their own technical mastery. ("This is no Less Curious: Journeys through the Collection" cocurated by Sonja Gandert, Alexandra Palmer, and Alana Ryder and presented at the Johnson Museum January 24 - April 12, 2015)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.