WHEN masterpieces of early Chinese painting and calligraphy from an American collection were unveiled at the Shanghai Museum last month, some viewers complained they could not appreciate the details because of dim light and window reflections.
They will find it easier to appreciate an exhibition of 60 meticulous reproductions by Nigensha, a Japanese publishing house, involving both artists and advanced ink jet printing developed by the company.
Some works are reproductions of those in the Shanghai Museum.
The exhibition is underway at Duoyunxuan art house, a 100-year-old Shanghai seller of jade and traditional art supplies, including the "four treasures of the study" - calligraphy brushes, ink sticks, ink stones and rice paper.
Advanced printing creates a remarkable reproduction, augmented by special color printing skills. Japan is famous for the ukiyoe artistic genre of woodblock printing, though this is different.
"The replicas rely more on people than equipment or computers," says Qiao Yang, organizer of the show. "Nuances of color in the originals are achieved by relying on the eyes of experts for minute adjustment."
It usually requires several years to complete a reproduction, but it took 16 years to reproduce a large scroll from the original collected by the Palace Museum in Taipei.
Some of the originals can be seen at the Shanghai Museum, on loan from the New York Metropolitan Museum and the Boston Art Museum.
There's no glass reflection problem and viewers can examine every brush stroke and subtle hue.
Compared with an ink jet printed replica, a color printed replica can be preserved for centuries, since it involves "deep printing" rather than "surface printing."
"These reproductions are filled with more layers of colors," Qiao says, adding that they may actually resemble the originals when they were freshly painted.
Many Ningensha professionals have retired and their skills are fading.