Chinese School, The Hongs at Canton, circa 1780. 17 ¼ x 29 ½ in (43.8 x 74.8 cm). Estimate £20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14

East greets West — the pictorial legacy of the China Trade

Christie’s topographical pictures specialist Nicholas Lambourn discusses the rising interest in China for 18th and 19th century Chinese export paintings

Produced as export wares in the Qing dynasty through the 18th and 19th centuries, and sought after by western collectors ever since, China Trade paintings are of growing interest to Chinese clients.

It is a taste being driven by Chinese institutions, led by the Hong Kong Museum of Art on Kowloon and the Guangdong Museum in Guangzhou on the mainland. The Hong Kong Museum of Art, which keeps the core of the celebrated Chater Collection, will be mounting an exhibition devoted to China Trade paintings in 2019.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Guangzhou (Canton) was the centre of production for these wares, as well as being China’s unique trading station with the west.

In 2016 the Guangzhou Thirteen Hongs Museum  opened, located on the site of the western factories — or hongs — on what was then Canton’s waterfront (see main image). China Trade paintings and other export wares are displayed in the museum around a vast diorama of the trading port as it was in the early 19th century.

Chinese School, The Hongs at Canton, circa 1835. 22 ¾ x 35 ½ in (57.8 x 90.2 cm). Estimate £20,000-40,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Chinese School, The Hongs at Canton, circa 1835. 22 ¾ x 35 ½ in (57.8 x 90.2 cm). Estimate: £20,000-40,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

In downtown Guangzhou, the Guangdong Museum, which serves the whole region, is building its collection of export art, and has recently published a hardback catalogue of the collection, Chinese Export Fine Art in the Qing Dynasty from Guangdong Museum.

Chow Kwa (fl.1855-1867), The Bund, Shanghai, circa 1857. 20 ¼ x 36 ½ in (51.4 x 92.8 cm). Estimate £60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Chow Kwa (fl.1855-1867), The Bund, Shanghai, circa 1857. 20 ¼ x 36 ½ in (51.4 x 92.8 cm). Estimate: £60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘After several hundred years of vicissitudes, export paintings, once exported to foreign countries as handicrafts, are now upgraded to works of art,’ writes Hongsheng Cai from Sun Yat-sen University in the introduction to the catalogue. The paintings, Cai continues, are now looked on as ‘a miracle in Guangzhou Port cultural history’.

Chinese School, The Spanish, American, British, and Dutch Hongs at Canton, circa 1826. 23 x 31 ½ in (58.4 x 80 cm). Estimate £40,000-60,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Chinese School, The Spanish, American, British, and Dutch Hongs at Canton, circa 1826. 23 x 31 ½ in (58.4 x 80 cm). Estimate: £40,000-60,000. This lot is offered in Topographical Pictures with Australian Art on 14 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

A selection of China Trade paintings, depicting the changing face of the Hongs at Canton from the late 18th to mid-19th century, as well as views of the later treaty ports of Hong Kong, Macao and Shanghai, will be included in the Asian section of the Topographical Pictures  sale in London on 14 December.

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Highlights will be on show at the Convention Centre in Hong Kong in late November alongside the Hong Kong sales.