This series of paintings dates back to 1800-1820 and depicts a series of different types of boats that use to cross the Pearl River in Guangzhou, China. Each boat is presented isolated in the middle of a rectangular canvas. with the line of the water softly marked with shadows of the color blue. The sequence appears as a series of portraits, each boat nicely detailed over a uniform background. At the time, the river was crossed by all kind of boats and vessels of different sizes and these paintings served as mass-produced souvenirs of the area.
Lord George Macartney (1737-1806), the first British ambassador to China, described that “the river of Canton is covered with boats and vessels of various sorts and sizes, all, even the very smallest, constantly and thickly inhabited”.
The images are hosted in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection in London. Thanks a lot to Brendan Cormier (Lead Curator of 20th and 21st Century Design for the Shekou Partnership at Victoria and Albert Museum) for pointing them out.
All images © Victoria and Albert Museum