Enchanted by Lohans

Osvald Sirén’s Journey into Chinese Art


Minna Törmä

ISBN : 978-988-8139-84-2

Film, Media, Fine Arts

August 2013

244 pages, 6.125″ x 9.25″, 28 b&w illus.

  • HK$295.00

Finnish-Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879–1966) was one of the pioneers of Chinese art scholarship in the West. This biography focuses on his four major voyages to East Asia: 1918, 1921–23, 1929–30 and 1935. This was a pivotal period in Chinese archaeology, art studies and formation of Western collections of Chinese art. Sirén gained international renown as a scholar of Italian art, particularly with his books on Leonardo da Vinci and Giotto. But when he was almost 40 years old, he was captivated by Chinese art (paintings of Lohans in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston) to such an extent that he decided to start his career anew, in a way. He has left his mark in several fields in Chinese art studies: architecture, sculpture, painting and garden art.

The study charts Sirén’s itineraries during his travels in Japan, Korea and China; it introduces the various people in those countries as well as in Europe and North America who defined the field in its early stages and were influential as collectors and dealers. It also explores the impact of theosophical ideas in his work.

Minna Törmä is Lecturer of Chinese Art at Christie’s Education London and School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow; and Adjunct Professor of Art History at University of Helsinki.

“Osvald Sirén was one of Scandinavia’s most prominent art historians of the twentieth century. This carefully documented analysis of his philosophies, investigative approaches, and activities in Europe, America, and Asia, is a tour de force of historiographical scholarship, crossing cultures, mentalities, and geographies, and providing vital insights into the pioneering study of Chinese art.” —Kathryn Brush, University of Western Ontario

Enchanted by Lohans is a scrupulously researched and detailed account of the engagement of Osvald Sirén with Chinese art in the dizzying cosmopolitan art world of the 1920s and 1930s. Absolutely essential for those interested in the formation of the field of Chinese art history.” —Stanley Abe, Duke University