LONDON — Chinese paintings and art considered to form one of the best collections outside China have been bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University by an art historian, the museum announced on Friday.
The Canadian-born historian and collector Michael Sullivan, who died in October at the age of 96, had amassed the collection with his late Chinese wife Khoan and many of the artists were the couple's close friends, the statement said.
The collection includes works by Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian and Fu Baoshi, with more recent acquisitions including Landscript by Xu Bing, the museum said.
“Michael Sullivan was a longstanding friend and supporter of the Ashmolean,” Professor Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean, said, describing the collection as outstanding.
“Scholars from around the world will have the opportunity to use the works in their study, teaching, and research. We hope this is a fitting testament to a great art historian and collector.”
Sullivan, whose family moved to Britain from Toronto when he was three years old, was a pacifist who first visited China in 1940 after he'd heard the Quakers were recruiting a team to drive trucks for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He developed a lifelong fascination with China, southeast Asia and the Pacific region and in 1959 published “Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century”, the first of several works on China and Chinese art.
He was appointed Lecturer in Asian Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in 1960, and was Professor of Asian Art at Stanford University in California from 1966-1984.
He combined academic work with his passion for bringing eastern art to a wider audience, producing articles for BBC publications and broadcasting on the radio.