Saturday, February 7, 2009



The big news in this blog is that there is not only a new item that will appear under Directory when you go to "Writings of J.C.," on my website, it is that this item is for the first time illustrated. The new item is "Chang Ta-ch'ien Forgeries," and when you click on it, two sub-items appear below: the second (should be first, but no matter) is titled the same, and is a long text, mostly a list with notes of nearly fifty "old" paintings that I suspect of being forgeries really painted by Chang. (I stress in the introductory paragraph there, and will stress again here, that I don't claim to be right on all of them: some genuinely old paintings, wrongly suspected, may well be on that list.) The really new part, however, is that when you click on "images" just above that, and then on the same word (underlined) when it appears at right, you will download an image file with images from slides—a drawer of them that I've been accumulating for years—made from most, nearly all, of the suspected paintings, numbered as on the list. PLEASE UNDERSTAND (once more) that I am in no sense "publishing" these; they can only be looked at, like slides; this is in effect a kind of online slideshow, offered for the use of anybody interested in pursuing this big problem of Chang's forgeries, and interested in reading and seeing the candidates offered by one specialist who has been working on them for more than six decades. I don't try to include Chang's forgeries of Shitao and Bada Shanren, or of other Ming- Qing artists with a few exceptions; mostly these are his attempts at Song and pre-Song styles. Some who read this list and my comments will be outraged to find favorite and trusted works there; to them I can only say, again: this is a list of what seem to me strong candidates, not proven offenders. (That won't reduce the outrage much, as I know already from what is, I believe, one angry reaction.) So, read, look, enjoy, send me responses if you want to via the "Contact" pull-down on the website. (A safe suggestion, since emails can't contain explosives or anthrax germs.)

Note: when this double item, Chang Ta-ch'ien Forgeries and Images, was first posted, an incomplete version of Images was put on, missing quite a few of the slides/images. AFter we discovered this, it was replaced, only a few days ago, with the complete version. So: if you downloaded the "Images" file from the Chang Ta-ch'ien Forgeries during the first few days it was up, trash it and download the new one. How can you tell? If you reach no. 5, the "Sun Wei" scroll, and have only a single detail of two seated figures (from the first half of the scroll) it's the old version; discard and get the new one, which for no. 5 has that detail plus two slides/images of the two halves of the scroll. Or: no. 23, the "Wu Wei" scroll in Shanghai, has only two images in the incomplete version, seven in the complete version.

Also newly posted are three new items in the "Responses and Reminiscences" series. No. 61 is on word usage, descriptive and prescriptive, with some examples of "wrong" usages that I marked in the margin back when I was reading term papers etc. Added to it later is a note on what I mean by "wrong"—it's not breaking-the-rules. No. 62 is on "A Collector I Did Like" (in contrast to two I didn't, the subjects of no. 59): Richard Hobart. And no. 63, just finished a few days ago, is a long, rambling, and I hope entertaining account of "Useless Projects and Elaborate Pranks" that I engaged in during my early years, a set of reminiscences occasioned by a response to one of them, the "Creed's Bookstore" chamber opera, and ending with several attempts to answer the question: Why did they [I and my collaborators] do them? The last of these attempts, and the one that goes deepest into the question, is a long Addendum that still rings true when I reread it.

Now that my research assistant Barry Magrill has conquered the technical problem of putting pictures on the site, new possibilities open up that will be explored and exploited in future months, and noted in blogs that will follow this one.

James Cahill