Walters scores coup acquiring Chinese artThe Walters Art...

Letters

June 09, 1996

Walters scores coup acquiring Chinese art

The Walters Art Gallery has scored another coup and since there has been so little fanfare, a letter is in order.

Hailed at the recent opening as one of the most important purchases of the decade, Hiram Woodward, curator of Asian art, in consultation with, among others, Gary Vikan, Walters director, recently acquired for the museum and placed on display a truly great masterpiece of Chinese landscape painting. The purchase was made possible through the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund.

The Walters has always had one of the world's finest collections of Chinese porcelains of the early Ch'ing dynasty, a seminal period of Chinese art, but it has lacked a major example of landscape painting of the same period to give meaning and perspective to the collection.

Now the gap is filled with a great symphony of a painting. About 24 feet long, the painting is a scroll meant to be seen in small increments in which the artist takes the viewer on a quiet journey through mountains and woodlands overlooking a river.

The scroll was painted in 1684 by the last of the recognized masters of the classical style, Wang Yuan Ch'i, and was named by him ''Free Spirits Among Streams and Mountains.'' Painted for a friend, the artist described in a personal inscription at the scroll's end the number of months of labor it took to complete.

Wang Yuan Ch'i came from a well-known family of intellectuals and imperial officials. He was taught painting by his grandfather, Wang Shih Min, another famous artist of the classical style. A few years after completing the Walters painting, Wang Yuan Ch'i was called to the imperial capital at Beijing, where he was assigned to the emperor's library of painting and calligraphy.

It is recorded that the emperor himself liked to visit Wang Yuan Ch'i at work and would peer enraptured over the artist's shoulder while he painted. The emperor wrote a poem in honor of Wang Yuan Ch'i, a line from which the artist had engraved on his seal. It read: ''Your pictures should be shown to the people.''

And so they should. Taking the emperor's advice, the Walters has now put this great masterpiece of Chinese painting on view, simply but appropriately installed with some comparison pieces nearby. Drs. Woodward and Vikan are to be congratulated for their foresight in purchasing this work, and the foundation thanked for making it possible.

Thomas G. Young III

Towson

Holidays weren't created for shopping

Every American should read about the veterans of all wars and the ordeals they endured in serving our country.

The article in the May 26 Perspective section refers to how Memorial Day has become the beginning of summer with ''parades, cookouts, and the melody of beeping cash registers . . . For people who fought from World War II to Desert Storm, the holiday marks a sacred pause to reflect on a time perhaps best forgotten but always a close, ghostly companion.'' Staff Sgt. Fred Bromwell stated, ''You see all these Memorial Day sales on refrigerators or cars and sometimes the holiday's meaning seems lost. . .''

This last sentence is true of all patriotic (and other) holidays. It's time to get back to the true meaning of our holidays and stop these events that focus on ''the almighty dollar.''

Margaret E. Beatty

Baltimore

Women would put an end to war

Your May 26 Perspective pieces concerning women in combat resulted in an interesting discussion at our house.

After filling in my partner as to the content of these opinion pieces, I suggested that it was time for a change in how the military is managed and staffed on a global scale. My suggestion was that the armed forces should be staffed exclusively by women.

At this point, my partner, who is a 42 year old male, asked me, ''Then who would do the fighting?''

My response to him was that is my point exactly.

Women would always find an excuse not to go to war. Somehow, it would always be a ''bad day'' to fight.

I told him that I envision battalions of ambassadors parachuting into hot spots all over the world. I can see them now, well-dressed men and women holding tightly to their briefcases as they descend through the clouds.

Instead of sending in munitions experts, family counselors would be deployed. Their job would be to identify and eliminate the root of the problem and not just blast the squabblers to kingdom come.

War has become irrelevant in our shrinking world. Therefore, the question of which gender does the actual fighting is also irrelevant.

Pam Cobo

Bel Air

Ignorance about Navy Awards

An article by Jeff Stein (Perspective, May 26), wherein he spouts numerous facts about the awarding of military medals, states that the late Adm. Arleigh Burke wore a single Medal of Honor on his shirt.

Admiral Burke never earned the Medal of Honor and he certainly would not have worn any undeserved honor. He earned and received many awards, but the Medal of Honor was not among them.

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