Kristina Kleutghen

David W. Mesker Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology
PhD, Harvard University
research interests:
  • Chinese Art and Architecture
    View All People

    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1189
    • One Brookings Dr.
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    Kristina Kleutghen is a specialist in Chinese Art, particularly of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Focusing on early modern, modern, and contemporary Chinese art, her research investigates Sino-foreign interaction, the imperial court, optical devices, and connections to science and mathematics.

    Her research has been supported by the Blakemore Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Getty Research Institute.

    Her first book, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces, was recently published by University of Washington Press.

    Her second book, Lens onto the World: Optical Devices, Art, Science, and Society in China (under advance contract with University of Washington Press), will be the first to study the forgotten relationship between Chinese optical devices and art from the fifteenth through early-twentieth centuries. When the first Chinese treatise on optics appeared in 1847, it was inspired by the wide range of optical devices that had circulated in China for nearly three hundred years. Since these devices were considered more within the realm of art than of science, their presence resulted in a wide range of paintings, prints, and visual culture. These works reveal that the effects of optical devices on vision and visuality arose less from foreignness, as might be expected, than from local culture and social class. 

    Selected Publications

    "Exotic Medicine: How Ignatius Sichelbarth's Painting of a Musk Deer Appeared in the Philosophical Transactions," in Orientations vol. 50 no. 6 (November/December 2019).

    With S.E. Kile, “Seeing Through Pictures and Poetry: A History of Lenses (1681),” Late Imperial China 38:1 (June 2017), 47-112. 

    “Huang Yong Ping and the Power of Zoomorphic Ambiguity,” in The Zoomorphic Imagination in Chinese Art, eds. Jerome Silbergeld and Eugene Wang (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016), 401-431. 

    "'Ethnicity, Empire and ‘Europe:’ Jesuit Art in China During the Papacy of Benedict XIV,” in Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment: Art, Science, and Spirituality, eds. Rebecca Messbarger, Philip Gavitt, and Christopher M. S. Johns (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 419-438. 

    “From Science to Art: The Evolution of Linear Perspective in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Art,” in Qing Encounters: Artistic Exchanges between China and the West, eds. Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Ding Ning (Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2015), 173-189. “Bringing Art to Life: Giuseppe Castiglione and Scenic Illusion Painting,” in Portrayals from a Brush Divine: A Special Exhibition on the Tricentennial of Giuseppe Castiglione’s Arrival in China (Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2015), 324-337.

    “Peepboxes, Society, and Visuality in Early Modern China,” Art History 38:4 (September 2015), 762-777.

    “Chinese Occidenterie: the Diversity of “Western” Objects in Eighteenth-Century China,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 47:2 (January 2014), 117-35.

    “Staging Europe: Theatricality and Painting at the Chinese Imperial Court,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 42 (2012), 81-102.

    “One or Two, Repictured,” Archives of Asian Art 62 (2012), 25-46.

    “通景画与郎世宁遗产 (Scenic Illusion Paintings and the Legacy of Giuseppe Castiglione),” Palace Museum Journal 故宫博物院院刊161 (2012, no. 3), 77-88.

    “Heads of State: Looting, Nationalism and Repatriation of the Zodiac Bronzes,” in Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals ed. Susan Delson (New York: Prestel, 2011), 162-83.

    “Contemplating Eternity: An Illusionistic Portrait of the Qianlong Emperor’s Heir,” Orientations 42:4 (May 2011), 73-79.

    Journal18 issue 4: East-Southeast

    Journal18 issue 4: East-Southeast

    The global turn in art history has opened up the eighteenth-century world in a variety of productive new ways. Yet the view of the interconnected eighteenth century is still often that of Europe and North America looking East, rather than broader Asia’s view of its own states and kingdoms that were spread out along the continent and across oceans. Trade, exploration, and diplomacy linked the region stretching from East Asia through Southeast Asia, around India, and across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East in ways that brought exotic goods from one end of this vast area to another. A few notable entities, among them Japan, forbade most or all Europeans from entering the country. But even those with significant European colonial or trade presences maintained and even strengthened their connections with distant Asian neighbors—some of whom were thousands of miles away by land or sea. Artists and artisans traveled between Asian courts and ports; luxurious and useful decorative objects brought far-flung nations into everyday contact; and imitations of the foreign competed with authentic imported goods in markets around the Eastern Hemisphere. The result is a complex and understudied area of cross-cultural contact that has yet to be fully integrated into conceptions of the global early modern world.

    The Fall 2017 “East Southeast” issue of Journal18 reorients the compass of global art history by considering intra-Asian artistic contact during the long eighteenth century, and thereby begins to plumb the true depths of interaction across the Asian continent during this period. Within East Asia, Chelsea Foxwell considers how the Japanese fascination with exotic Chinese birds that arrived in the sole trading port of Nagasaki were represented in woodblock-printed books that juxtaposed realistic depiction with visual references to other works of art. Lan Wu takes a historical approach to Tibetan Buddhist art patronage in the Qing empire, using a case study of one Mongolian city as evidence for a thriving network of sites in Inner Asia, and challenging the standard narrative of patronage directed by the capital. Focusing on Southeast Asia, Imran bin Tajudeen reassesses the architectural history of eighteenth-century mosques in Melaka, Palembang, and Jakarta, which display a range of stylistic and structural connections to China, India, and Yemen thanks to a diversity of migrations and movements around the region. Linking South Asia and the Middle East, Holly Shaffer’s study of temporary Muslim shrines in India uncovers how these ephemeral structures drew on architectural models and historical moments from early Islam in Iran and Iraq to enhance devotional practices. With topics that span the breadth of Asia, these four articles reveal the rich texture of intra-Asian interaction that offers new insights into the global eighteenth century.

    Imperial Illusions

    Imperial Illusions

    In the Forbidden City and other palaces around Beijing, Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) surrounded himself with monumental paintings of architecture, gardens, people, and faraway places. The best artists of the imperial painting academy, including a number of European missionary painters, used Western perspectival illusionism to transform walls and ceilings with visually striking images that were also deeply meaningful to Qianlong. These unprecedented works not only offer new insights into late imperial China’s most influential emperor, but also reflect one way in which Chinese art integrated and domesticated foreign ideas.

    In Imperial Illusions, Kristina Kleutghen examines all known surviving examples of the Qing court phenomenon of “scenic illusion paintings” (tongjinghua), which today remain inaccessible inside the Forbidden City. Produced at the height of early modern cultural exchange between China and Europe, these works have received little scholarly attention. Richly illustrated, Imperial Illusions offers the first comprehensive investigation of the aesthetic, cultural, perceptual, and political importance of these illusionistic paintings essential to Qianlong’s world.

    One or Two, Repictured

    One or Two, Repictured

    This issue features a special section on a 2011 Pulitzer Arts Foundation workshop in which twelve graduate students and four professors of Asian art history commented on the context of objects in the foundation’s exhibition Reflections of the Buddha. Other essays explore Asian traditions of painting, such as Chinese imperial portraits, Huai’ian tomb paintings, and ema, or votive paintings on the Kabuki stage at the Narita-san temple. Contributors include Stanley K. Abe, Catherine Becker, Phillip Bloom, Katherine Brooks, James Cahill, Marsha Haufler, Jiyeon Kim, Kristina Kleutghen, John M. Rosenfield,  Marsha Rosenfield, Jerome Silbergeld, and Hilary K. Snow.