These images were painted directly in the field, probably around the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou and by Lake Taihu. Their nature as studies is reflected in their small formats and the focus on areas of colour in which realistic details are substituted by visible, rapid and shallow brushwork which in places does not even cover the pasteboard support.
Franke’s images of traditional Chinese bridges, canals and architecture are among the few examples of depictions of East Asia in Slovenian art and predate Janez Šubic’s similarly conceived Roman sketches by a few years. Franke visited China in 1873. The journey later inspired his short story Postillion d’amour. This adventure story about the search for the kidnapped son of a Russian princess is complemented by descriptions of European colonial outposts, recent Chinese history and modern life in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The protagonist of the story, a painter from Dalmatia called Cetinovič, also paints during his journey; he is interested in the effects that natural light creates in the landscape, on water and on objects. Franke’s works, painted 15 years before the story was written, are somewhat different, but they do speak of the artistic transition from studio to nature.