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Lacquer: A Constantly Developing Expertise

Published on , by Caroline Boudehen

Discovered nearly three thousand years ago, “Chinese varnish” developed throughout South-East Asia. Today, the unique properties of this material are as fascinating as ever to master lacquerers and artists.  

Weng Jijun in his Shanghai studio. Lacquer: A Constantly Developing Expertise

Weng Jijun in his Shanghai studio.

© Weng Jijun
An insoluble, rot-proof, uncommonly strong resin that adheres to numerous materials (like wood, metal, leaves and leather), lacquer was initially used as a simple finish to protect weapons, objects and furniture. But its many qualities were soon explored in a more aesthetic vein, and increasingly complex techniques developed over the centuries. In the Ming period (1368-1644), over a hundred were listed, ranging from dry to painted, carved and inlaid lacquer. Largely used in the decoration of furniture and precious objects from the Song dynasty ( 960-1279 ) to the Qing period (1644-1912), it reflected codified aesthetic and traditional forms through to the 1980s. But in the last twenty years of the 20 th century, with the opening of China to the world and the development of contemporary art, lacquer evolved into a practice…
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