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Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World

Negotiating Alterity in Art and Its Historical Interpretation

David Clarke

Publication Year: 2011

This book examines Chinese art from the mid-eighteenth century to the present, beginning with discussion of a Chinese portrait modeler from Canton who traveled to London in 1769, and ending with an analysis of art and visual culture in post-colonial Hong Kong. By means of a series of six closely-focused case studies, often deliberately introducing non-canonical or previously marginalized aspects of Chinese visual culture, it analyzes Chinese art’s encounter with the broader world, and in particular with the West. Offering more than a simple charting of influences, it uncovers a pattern of richly mutual interchange between Chinese art and its others. Arguing that we cannot fully understand modern Chinese art without taking this expanded global context into account, it attempts to break down barriers between areas of art history which have hitherto largely been treated within separate and often nationally-conceived frames. Aware that issues of cultural difference need to be addressed by art historians as much as by artists, it represents a pioneering attempt to produce an art historical writing which is truly global in approach. It hopes to appeal both to those with a special interest in modern Chinese art and those who are only now becoming aware of this fascinating but previously under-explored field.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Certain material presented in this book was previously published, in a different form, in other locations. Thanks are due to the editors and copyright holders of those publications for allowing that material to be used as the basis for aspects of the present work. ...

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pp. 1-12

In recent years Chinese contemporary art has received extensive exposure in the international art arena. The rise of China on the world stage, following the economic liberalization and opening-up of the Deng Xiaoping era, has been one obvious major factor behind this transformation. ...

Part I: Trajectories: Chinese artists and the West

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Chapter 1: Chitqua: A Chinese artist in eighteenth-century London

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pp. 15-84

Until recently, accounts of Chinese art have tended to give an undue prominence to the artistic taste of the scholar-gentleman elite, which valorized amateur production and private circulation, and emphasized qualities of rhythmic vitality and expressivity in brushwork. An internalization of literati values by art historians meant that less attention...

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Chapter 2: Cross-cultural dialogue and artistic innovation: Teng Baiye and Mark Tobey

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pp. 85-111

When American painter Mark Tobey (1890–1976) discussed his artistic development, he emphasized the importance of his study of Chinese brushwork, undertaken in Seattle with a Chinese friend, in liberating him from bondage to the Renaissance heritage and permitting him to discover the dynamic linearity which became the hallmark of his style. ...

Part II: Imported genres

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Chapter 3: Iconicity and indexicality: The body in Chinese art

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pp. 115-132

In this chapter I consider the place of the body in Chinese art.1 I begin by identifying in a somewhat schematic way various defining characteristics of literati painting and calligraphy, the art of the social elite in pre-modern China.2 I then consider, with greater historical focus, the moment when a distinctly modern visual culture, drawing self-consciously on Western...

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Chapter 4: Abstraction and modern Chinese art

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pp. 133-164

Linear stories of modern art’s development have characteristically been formalistic ones, and although such narratives have not always treated abstraction as essential to artistic progress, they have generally given art that is abstract a central role to play. In particular, abstract art proved crucial to narratives that construct postwar American modernism...

Part III: Returning home: Cites between China and the world

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Chapter 5: Illuminating facades: Looking at postcolonial Macau

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pp. 167-188

First settled by the Portuguese in 1557, Macau’s position at the mouth of China’s Pearl River enabled it to play a significant role in the early development of trading and other links between East Asia and Europe. Its pivotal role was already threatened by the eighteenth century, however, following the Japanese prohibition on foreign trade...

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Chapter 6: The haunted city: Hong Kong and its urban others in the postcolonial era

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pp. 189-212

When we travel to other cities as the result of personal desire — for example, in our identity as tourists — we are driven to a significant extent by the place that city has in our imaginative life. Towards the beginning of Proust’s monumental work In Search of Lost Time the narrator’s young self...


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pp. 213-252


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pp. 253-259

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053841
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888083060

Publication Year: 2011