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Wang, Shu-Chin (2009) Realist agency in the art field of twentieth-century China: Realism in the art and writing of Xu Beihong (1895-1953). PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029583

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the spread of the neologism xieshi zhuyi, the Chinese equivalent of 'realisin', in China in the early twentieth century through a case study of Xu Beihong. He is an indispensible figure in modern Chinese art, with his eminent status as a devotee of realism in art in particular being widely recognised. His dedication to realism in the twentieth century brings a dichotomy to his historical reputation, either as a beacon of modern Chinese art. or a conservative painter. To resolve this controversy, which results from the focus that scholarship so far has placed on 'what his realistic attainments are', this thesis explores 'how' Xu Beihong became such an prominent figure in China's art world, largely through his perception, translation and appropriation of Western realism. This perspective replaces the colonial perspective, which views twentieth-century Chinese art as a passive and belated modernity modelled on that of the West, with one grounded in postmodernism, which turns its emphasis instead to China's actively Occidental construction of the West. This thesis also studies the promulgation of the English term 'fine art', which underlies the formation of the art field in China. The appearance of such neologisms as 'realism' and 'fine art' points to a large-scale transplant of a Western framework of knowledge into China, to replace the Confucian traditions seen as obsolete after the collapse of imperial rule in 1911. Through examining the realist agency of Xu Beihong, this thesis will disclose the conflicted nature of China's art field, in which institutions, tastes and agencies are brought into play. Moreover, the diversity of the art field will in turn provide a perspective on the position-taking implied by Xu Beihong's adherence to realism. Consequently, this thesis aims to appreciate Xu Beihong's achievements beyond the simple dichotomy of modern Westernisation vs. conservatism.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029583
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:16
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/29583

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