Current Research Projects
ADI current projects include researches in the following areas:
- Ancient Chinese art history and paintings
- Italian Renaissance paintings, including works attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
- China Trade oil paintings
- Paintings of the Barbizon School in France
- Japanese Muromachi paintings
- Contemporary paintings of Europe and the Americas
- Art Conservation
ADI has extensively published art theories and research in the field of Chinese painting, particularly of that produced during the Song Dynasty.
China Trade. ADI has particular experience in researching and studying paintings and other art produced during the historical context of nineteenth century Anglo-Chinese commerce -- commonly known as “China Trade” art.
Over the past decade, ADI has worked to reintroduce awareness of the fine and decorative art of this China Trade period back to its country of origin, and to reestablish a richer and more precise Chinese historical context for these works in the United States and Europe.
ADI hosts and maintains The China Trade Paintings Digital Images Archive, in cooperation with participating museums and other collections.
ADI itself holds a collection of 40 authenticated works from this period, which included renderings in oil in a European-styled realism of both the brisk maritime commerce and the "opium war" conflicts, portraits of the men who engaged in them, and their environs and landscape, as well as objets d'art produced for the lucrative foreign markets.
While “China Trade” is an active subfield of study in the West, it has ironically been the subject of neglect in China due to historical forces that led to the export of virtually all such paintings, and the consequent separation of these works in Europe and the Americas from the cultural and historical context that produced them.
After researching known masterpieces, and identifying possibly misattributed works and other likely errors in their accompanying literature and descriptive text, ADI researchers published results of their research in respected art history journals in mainland China, such as Chinese Oil Paintings (Zhongguo Youhua) (2005, 1st ed.) and the Taiwan-based Bulletin of National Museum of History (April 2010).
As greater interest is regenerated in China’s art history community and its general population in these artifacts of this "lost era", the China Trade subfield will have capacity to serve as a substantial forum for East-West academic and cultural exchange, and to encourage interest among Chinese visitors to the United States and Europe in institutions that house these culturally and artistically significant works.
Premodern Chinese Landscape Painting. ADI key projects have included particular study into comparison and analysis of the scientific nature of premodern Chinese landscape painting, and paintings of the Italian Renaissance. See Lin Kuang, On the Scientific Nature and Uniqueness of Premodern Chinese Landscape Painting: And on the Golden Ratio Geometric Model and Traditional Methodologies as Mutual Complements (Create Space: 2014); Lin Yang, An Analysis of Leonardo’s Painting ‘Ginevra de Benci’, Mei Yuan (Shenyang, Liaoning 4th ed. Aug. 2009).
In the mainstream view, ancient Chinese painting was considered largely philosophical, atmospheric and emotional in approach, while the Western classical painting tradition was held to be more scientific and rational, with the development of perspective and other geometric principles that profoundly enhanced and facilitated artistic expression.
In fact, ancient Chinese philosophical art also embraced and embodied scientific and geometric principles. Through analyzing the compositions of the landscape paintings of Zhang Sengyou, Fan Kuan, and Ma Yuan, ADI researchers discovered that all of these artists utilized diametric constructs formed of the so-called "golden ratio" more commonly associated with ancient Greece and the Italian Renaissance. Each such master carefully emphasized the coordinated relationships among objects placed within a three-dimensional space in the whole painting area to reach the best practice of arranging a composition. ADI analysis demonstrates that the aesthetic law of "Learn from nature and form images from one's soul (“wai shi zao hua nei de xin yuan)" was not purely abstract and philosophical. In practice, the key element proved to be whether an artist could utilize natural law to observe and understand nature, and have sympathetic responses that would help him reach the highest state of "Learning from one's own thoughts" from the state of "Learning from nature".
These discoveries and analyses, if more broadly understood, can enrich the aesthetic theory of ancient Chinese landscapes. They prove that painting traditions and achievements deeply rooted in Chinese culture and philosophy are simultaneously in accord with scientific principles, as are Western classical painting traditions. Notably, these observations may provide a new theoretical tool for discovering and authenticating the paintings of particular well-known masters, such as Zhang Sengyou or Ma Yuan. See Art Discovery Institute, Analysis on Special Cases of Composition of Ancient Chinese Landscapes: Also on Distinguished Aesthetic Forms of Ancient Chinese Paintings, Bulletin of National Museum of History (Taipei, Taiwan: May 2012).
ADI published its analysis of the landscape compositions of Song Dynasty master Ma Yuan using the "golden-angled triangle" principle, which is a golden ratio technique related to that known to have been employed by artists of classical Greece and the Italian Renaissance and more typically used to analyze Western artwork. Ma Yuan's known ability to portray extraordinary dimensionality in landscape painting rests in his unique judgment, understanding, and intuitive grasp of the natural world. At the same time, in Ma Yuan's landscape paintings, the relative positions of all significant objects in the frame reflect golden-angled triangles. None of these essential objects could be removed from the composition, nor reduced in size or increased in number, without throwing the work into disarray or diminishing its stature. This principle gives Ma Yuan's landscape compositions their fundamental uniqueness, and demonstrates that his characteristic "one-side/corner" ("Ma Bianjiao" or "Ma Corner") style is similar in appearance to, but different in substance from, the "bianjiao" composition of Southern Song artists such as Li Tang and Xia Gui.
Through analysis and extrapolation of works generally acknowledged to be by Ma Yuan, ADI researchers demonstrated his innovative artistic underpinnings, and proposed the golden-angle principle as a critical criterion for attributing landscape paintings to Ma Yuan. See Art Discovery Institute, Introduction to Composition Analysis on Landscapes by Ma Yuan (originally published in Mandarin), The Bulletin of National Museum of History (Taipei, Taiwan: Feb. 2011). See also generally Yang Ji Gao, From Panoramic Landscape Painting to Bianjiao Landscape Painting---Study of the landscape painting style transformation in the Five Dynasties (Master Thesis, Capital Normal University, People's Republic of China (2008).