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Visiting the city of art with Professor Stone

Peking University, Oct. 24, 2014:  Donald Stone, professor from the English Department of Peking University (PKU) and winner of the 2014 National Friendship Award, presented a lecture on Vienna to the PKU students on the Friday evening, as the first part of a series of lectures on the major Western art centers.

“What I want to do is to give you something about western art in a way that is personal rather than didactic,” said Professor Stone at the very beginning of his lecture. As one who emphasized personal feelings in the appreciation of art, he naturally chose his favorite city, Vienna, as the topic for his first lecture.

Professor Stone highlighted the several connections between his personal history and the city. As a young man, he once stayed in Vienna for three months and went to the opera almost every night. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley around 50 years ago, Stone had received invaluable help from Professor Carl Emil Schorske, his favorite professor of history and the author of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture. When he was attending the interview for a job at City University of New York (CUNY) in 1966, he told the committee that Vienna was the city where he was most willing to dwell. His passion for the art center impressed the committee members and this was how he began his academic career at CUNY as an assistant professor.

Professor Stone was delivering his lecture on Vienna.

(Photo by/ Lin Xin, student-volunteer of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Peking University)

The first part of Professor Stone’s lecture was focused on city planning and preservation of historical buildings in Vienna. He began with a picture of Vienna in 1760, saying that at present the city was almost exactly the same as it was hundreds of years ago. Even if wars had destroyed the buildings and roads of the city, they would later be rebuilt according to the original design. He showed pictures of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Wiener Staatsoper (the Vienna State Opera), one built in the twelfth century and the other in the nineteenth century, as prime examples for the Viennese citizens’ effective protection of their historical treasures.

As an ardent art lover, Professor Stone devoted a considerable part of his lecture to the major museums in the city and art collections held in these museums. He showed numerous paintings, elaborating on their history and context and sharing his personal feelings in his appreciation of these treasures.

 The audience (Photo by/ Lin Xin)

After his lecture, Professor Stone gave an interview to the PKU News reporter. He said that he truly cherished his friendship with the Chinese students as they were diligent, devoted to their studies and respectful towards the teachers. However, in his opinion, a large number of young people at PKU had been working too hard, which might deprive them of their youth. He said that the PKU students should sometimes leave their work and clear their minds in a relaxed manner in order to better concentrate on their studies and gain real pleasure from their efforts. “It is just like painting,” he said, “it’s the pleasure of concentrating on the work that interests you but not how skillful you are that really matters.”

Professor Stone’s next lecture is scheduled on November 14th. The topic for the new lecture is New York, the center of modernist and postmodernist art.

Background information about the speaker:

Donald Stone is Professor Emeritus of City University of New York. Since 2006, Professor Stone has been teaching Victorian literature one semester every year in the English Department of Peking University as a visiting professor. For eight consecutive years, he has donated numerous precious art collections and cultural relics to the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of the university. In June 2011, Professor Stone was honored with an award from Beijing International Education Cooperation. In October 2014, the Chinese government presented him with the National Friendship Award.

Reported by: Li Chen
Edited by: Chen Jiayu