Week 1: Introduction: positioning Chinese art
Any discussion of Chinese art and culture is difficult without some background and context. We will review important historic events, philosophical ideas and critical artistic developments that undergird twentieth-century visual expression. The collapse of the 2000 year-old dynastic system in 1911 was a catalyst to reevaluate and redefine cultural traditions.
Week 2: The end of empire
Ideas about art changed as Chinese artists went abroad in the early twentieth century and learned Western modes of expression. We examine the polemical climate that put idealism and materialism in opposition, and how new and innovative styles gained acceptance in response to political and economic pressure toward modernization.
Week 3: Wartime
During the war years of 1920 - 1950 artists shifted modes of representation in the face of displacement and shortage. Governmental change sharpened the debate over the value of “traditional” art and culture. We trace the extraordinary measures taken to protect the national collection from the vicissitudes of revolution and warfare.
Week 4: Soldiers, workers and peasants
After the Communist victory, art was used to promote Marxist ideology as a force to intervene in and benefit society. During the Cultural Revolution, art in academy and socialist realism style exalted the new society. In the highly volatile political climate, artists’ security and careers rose and fell accordingly.
Week 5: Riding the post-Mao “New Wave”: Emergence and revival
After Mao’s death in 1976, new subjects, new media, and new methods of reaching an audience exploded the art scene. Euro-American systems of art proliferated as artists sought alternatives and ways to transform historic modes of art. Oil painting remained an important art medium, as artists engaged with international art trends.
Week 6: “Chinese” art?
Debates about twentieth-century Chinese art encompass its role as a space of ideology and contestation, as the site of cultural authority, and its function in challenging the prevailing hegemony. We continue to examine the themes of continuity and change, and conclude by considering the role of art in resisting globalization.