Published 2/16/17


The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) is pleased to announce that the exhibition catalogue, 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection, edited by Stephen Little (2016), has been awarded the 38th annual George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award. The award was presented at the ARLIS/NA’s 45th annual conference held in New Orleans, February 5-9, 2017. Established in 1980, the Wittenborn Award honors the memory of George Wittenborn, a premier New York art book dealer and publisher, and is given annually to North American publications demonstrating excellence in art publishing.

The catalogue accompanied the exhibition Alternative Dreams: 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Collection, which was on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art August 7–December 4, 2016. The Los Angeles Times described the exhibition as "a stately, absorbing overview from a tumultuous, invigorating era in art.” This engaging, monumental work of nearly 700 pages includes contributions by Raoul Birnbaum, Katharine P. Burnett, Jonathan Chaves, Ronald Egan, Wan Kong, and Stephen Little, as well as an interview with the collector, Jung Ying Tsao. Meant for an audience whose knowledge of the subject ranges from novice to expert, the catalogue provides extensive notes on each work and contextualizes the objects by providing chronologies to understand the time periods in which they were created. Attributions and titles for each object are given in Chinese and English, and new translations of poetry accompany the entries when featured in the work. The volume concludes with a glossary of Chinese words, a comprehensive bibliography and index, and a transcription of seals. It offers keen insight into the collector through a biography and interview.

 It is a beautifully designed book with several variations of paper that visually differentiate the sections of the catalogue. The design includes thoughtful details, such as the inclusion of thematic sections on the bottom of each page—important when dealing with large volumes. The photography of the 130 paintings is outstanding, and the images are large enough to make out the important details of each work. This publication exceeded the Wittenborn Award Committee’s expectations in every criterion. 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection sets a new high standard for exhibition catalogues in this field.

LACMA's publisher, Lisa Gabrielle Mark, said, "I wholeheartedly congratulate Stephen Little on receiving the George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award. This singular achievement underscores LACMA Publications' commitment to original scholarship, sensitive editing, thoughtful design, and top-notch production. 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection documents one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese art; it is a testament to the resilience and creativity of artists who negotiated shifting identities and social upheaval through painting, calligraphy, and poetry. The passion and precision that Stephen and his co-authors brought to their close study of the exquisite works in the Tsao Family Collection are manifest in all aspects of the publication."

Heather Gendron, ARLIS/NA President and Director of the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University, says, "We are always amazed by the number of top-notch, well-written and researched, beautifully-designed books that are presented to us each year for consideration of the Wittenborn Award. The outstanding achievement of an exhibition catalogue like 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection really demonstrates a very high level of scholarship paired with exceptional design, and, importantly, a strong understanding of how readers engage with art historical scholarship. We congratulate the authors and thank them for this important contribution to the field.”

We would also like to acknowledge two honorable mentions:

  • Paper in Profile: Mixografia and Taller De Gráfica Mexicana: June 4-August 21, 2016 by William U. Eiland, Katie Anania, and Lynn Boland ([Athens, GA]: Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2016).
  • Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné by Linda Gertner Zatlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).

The members of the 2016 Wittenborn Award Committee are: Traci Timmons, Librarian, Seattle Art Museum (chair); Margaret Fast, Research Librarian, Western Washington University; Alan Michelson, Head Librarian, Built Environments Library, University of Washington; Bridget Nowlin, Visual Arts Librarian, Cornish College of the Arts; Angela Weaver, Head Librarian, Art and Drama Libraries, University of Washington.

More information about the publication can be found in the press release.

About the Art Libraries Society of North America

Founded in 1972, the Art Libraries Society of North America is a dynamic, international organization of more than 1,000 individuals devoted to fostering excellence in art and design librarianship and image management in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The membership includes architecture and art librarians, visual resources professionals, artists, curators, educators, publishers, students, and others interested in visual arts information. To serve this diverse constituency, the Society provides a wide range of programs and services within an organizational structure that encourages participation at all levels.

Lyndsay Bratton, ARLIS/NA Media Editor
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Telephone: (860) 439-2729
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