The Loewentheil Photography of China Collection is the world’s greatest collection of early photography of China.
The Collection consists of more than 21,000 photographs produced in China spanning the earliest days of paper photography in the 1850s through the 1930s, with more than one-half of the photographs dating to the late Qing Dynasty. The archive, an unsurpassed artistic treasure trove of early photography of China, could not be replicated today due to the scarcity of quality material. It includes thousands of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese photography in superb condition created by the artistic giants of early photography of China. It was assembled with an emphasis on photographs of the highest historical and artistic quality. This is the world’s finest holding of early photographic works of China by both Chinese and international photographers.
This enormous photographic archive fully documents the lives and cultures of the people of China. Chinese business and commerce is well represented with photographs including street business scenes, portraits of artisans and merchants, pictures of craftsmen at work, and views documenting trade and business ties with other nations.
Beijing photographs in the Collection include images by every major nineteenth-century photographer of the city. No gathering of photographs surpasses the Loewentheil Collection in its artistic and historical scope. The archive includes the finest earliest photographs of Beijing’s grand architecture, expansive topography, and vibrant daily life. One of the highlights is an important photograph album containing fine photographs by Felice Beato. It is the finest early photography album of Beijing remaining in private hands. This volume contains a series of the first photographs ever taken of Beijing as well as spectacular multi-panel panoramas of the city by the pioneering photographer Felice Beato. The Collection also has an extensive holding of the first scenes of daily life in Beijing by Georges Auguste Morache. These photographs are extremely rare records of a wide range of people living in Beijing in the nineteenth century. In addition, the Loewentheil Collection contains the world’s largest holding of Thomas Child’s famous Beijing photographs, the first systematic photographic survey of the city.
Shanghai is extremely well represented with unparalleled holdings of early photographs. A highlight of the Loewentheil Collection is the greatest early photograph of China, Henry Cammidge’s panorama of Shanghai, the largest nineteenth-century view of a Chinese city. The archive holds the only extant copy of this panorama in the world. The Collection also includes extensive holdings of fine photographs by Shanghai artists Kung Tai, Hing Qua & Co, and Tuck Tai. In addition, this unparalleled treasure trove includes the world’s best collection of photographs by William Saunders, who operated Shanghai’s leading nineteenth- century photographic studio. These include the most extensive example of Saunders’s magnum opus, Life in China, and a complete set of the artist’s hand-colored photographs. Every great early photographer of Shanghai is represented in this immense and important archive.
The city and topographical views extend well beyond the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai. There are early photographic masterpieces from Xiamen, Guangzhou, Yantai, Zhenjiang, Hankou, Hong Kong, Jiujiang, Kunshan, Aomen, Nanking, Putuo Shan, Suzhou, Shantou, Dagu, Tianjin, Sichuan, Ningbo, and Fuzhou. The Loewentheil Collection also includes the earliest street scenes and images of daily life from all over China. These photographs show the people, street life, occupations, and landmarks of China’s great cities and the rural and agricultural settings of what was once China’s countryside.
Photographic masterpieces of China’s natural world are present in the Collection’s unsurpassed holdings of Chinese landscape photographs. One highpoint is John Thomson’s Foochow and the River Min, celebrated and revered as a monument of nineteenth- century photography. The Loewentheil Collection has the finest and best-preserved copy of the seven extant sets. In addition, the archive boasts an unparalleled holding of Chinese landscape photographs by Chinese master photographers Tung Hing and Lai Fong.
The Loewentheil Collection presents the historic architecture of China’s cities and the monuments of its revered ancestors. These images portray the legendary natural beauty of China from the rivers to the mountains and from the expanses of the Great Wall to the Forbidden City. This is a stunning visual record of China’s landscape, people, and culture before the emergence of modern China.
The Loewentheil Masterpieces of Early Photography of China Collection is the greatest collection of early photography of China in the world.
“With its large quantity and high quality of photographs, the Loewentheil Collection is a treasure that should be studied and explored systematically by the academic circle.”
– Qi Xuemin, Professor of Humanities Tsinghua University