May 15th Roberta Wue

Roberta Wue, Associate Professor

Art History and Visual Studies Department, University of California-Irvine

Xugu Abstractions

Among its innovations, late Qing Shanghai painting may count intriguing experimentation in the rendering of space and the multi-dimensional.  The work of the monk painter Xugu (1823-1896) can be said to exemplify a period curiosity about the nature and construction of pictorial space. In his paintings, especially his landscapes and still-life subjects, the representation of space becomes an important theme, often challenging conventional concepts of positioning, orientation and order.  Though couched in the terms and genres of “traditional” ink painting, Xugu’s works often appear to acknowledge western notions of geometry and perspective but not in blind imitation — his works as a whole can be understood to acknowledge, disrupt and reorder indigenous and imported notions of depicted space. Space, of course, is also a term for positioning and the inter-relationship of persons, things and places; thus, Xugu’s treatment of visual space can be seen not only as a topical, intercultural and intermedial investigation into pictorial technologies and genres, but also a meditation on cultural, social and personal placement and order.

All sessions will take place in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC)
Room 156 4:30-6:30pm

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May 8 Yanfei Zhu

Yanfei Zhu, Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

“Traitor to Art:” Liu Haisu (1896-1994) and His Oil/Ink Paintings between Two Worlds

Liu Haisu (1896-1994), details of Waves (left), 1932, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 92 cm, and Angry Waves (right), 1927, hanging scroll, ink on paper, 150.8 x 62.3 cm. Both at the Kyoto National Museum.

As often criticized as praised by his contemporaries and current scholars, Liu Haisu (1896-1994) was a seminal figure in the definition of modern art and art education in Republican China (1912-1949). He directed the Shanghai Art Academy, one of the first modern art schools in China; during his journeys to Europe, he acted as an informal envoy of art and culture, endeavoring to propagate the knowledge of Chinese art and reinstate China as the cradle of Far Eastern culture; and throughout his life, he doggedly worked to integrate the ostensibly irreconcilable conventions of Chinese and European painting. After examining his writings and paintings of the period, and in particular his claims for the theoretical consonance of painting by the nineteenth century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and the seventeenth century Chinese painter Shitao (1642-1707), this paper proposes that Liu Haisu, despite his many empty boasts, succeeded in the project of establishing a new Chinese art in the twentieth century, one in which ink painting and oil painting both had a significant place.

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May 1st Jun Hu

* This talk has been rescheduled to Fall 2015:

Jun Hu, Assistant Professor

The Department of Art History, Northwestern University

Chinese Painting Circa 1603: Some Comments on the Conditions for “Art Historical” Art

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Wang Yue (fl. first half of 17th c.)

Landscape in the Manner of Huang Gongwang

Album Leaf, Dated 1627

Private Collection

 Landscape painting in China is often conditioned by a sense of self-reference. Artists study earlier styles not only as motifs and pictorial content, but also as means. Centuries of conscious emulation and oblique reference makes it possible for a trained eye to see “Wang Wei” in a “Zhao Mengfu,” and “Zhao Mengfu,” in a “Dong Qichang.” But it is only in the seventeenth century, it would seem, that a panoptic vision of the past begins to take form: in this vision “styles” become legible patterns that can be mapped onto history, and it is possible now to (rather like in a modern day art history book) pin a name to a picture. In painted and printed pictorial albums, past styles become the primary subject matter. This talk will explore the formats, mediums, and other conditions in which this “carnival” of pictorial styles took place in seventeenth-century China, as well as its discontents.

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April 24 Shengyu Wang

Shengyu Wang, Ph.D. Candidate

The Department of Comparative Literature, University of Chicago

Chinese Classical Tales in Picture Books: A Study of Wang Tao (1828-1897)’s Songyin tales in Relation to the Tongwen Press’ Illustrated Editions of Pu Songling (1640-1715)’s Liaozhai zhiyi

Originally a European invention, lithographical printing revolutionized the mechanical reproduction of images in China after it first became widely used for commercial publishing in Shanghai during the 1870s. This paper examines some outstanding examples of late-19th century lithography-printed Chinese classical tales as emblems of a new entertainment-oriented print culture and discusses their fundamental differences, in terms of medium, format, readership, and interpretative framework, from woodblock-printed collections of classical tales produced in an earlier period. Based on my research at the Shanghai library, this paper explores for the first time the correlation between the emergence of a visual tradition associated with the Liaozhai zhiyi and a growing body of texts that were (mis)identified as the Hou Liaozhai (Tales after the Liaozhai), with the aim of proposing a new approach to the study of the last flurry of Liaozhai imitations at the end of the Chinese empire.

All sessions will take place in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC) Room 156

Friday 4:30-6:30pm

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April 10 Tessa Handa

Tessa Handa, Ph.D. Student

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

The Postcard: Negotiating Modernity, Mediality, and Aesthetics in Late Meiji Japan

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Fujishima Takeji. Geisha and Biwa, from series Bijin to Ongyoku. Color woodblock print and stencil; organic colorants and inorganic colorants, metallic pigment on Japanese paper adhered to card stock. 13.8 x 8.8 cm. 1905.

Fujishima Takeji’s (1867-1943) wood-block printed postcard, Geisha and Biwa, features a geisha, clad in a boldly patterned kimono, set against a backdrop of silver metallic waves and dancing triangular shapes. This 1905 postcard is addressed, stamped, and postmarked to Meridan, New Hampshire. Now residing in the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s collection, this postcard has traversed vast distances of time and space and bears witness to a story of emerging communication networks and changing visualities in turn of the century Japan. In this paper, I argue that the artist postcard was a medial point of contact between emerging technology, aesthetic negotiation, and the masses. Through this point of contact we can access dimensions of the artist postcard’s role in late Meiji period. Specifically the artist postcard was a site for producing and seeing ideas about new Japanese aesthetics. Further, the ensuing debate over whether or not the postcard was fine art reveals the deep-seated anxiety over the recent formulation of the field of aesthetics and the boundaries of fine art. Postcards such as Fujishima’s series offered a distant and fantastic idea of modern Japan to the foreign and domestic audience that could be inscribed, sent, and ultimately possessed.

Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC) Room 156 4:30-6:30pm

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March 27th Shana J. Brown

March 27th Shana J. Brown, Associate Professor

Department of History, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa


The Gender of Antiquity: Female Chinese Collectors and Antiquarians at the Turn of the Century

Hedda Morrison Girl watching female artist

Hedda Morrison (1908-1991), Girl watching female artist painting, Beijing, c. 1933-1946.

This talk explores varieties of women’s participation in the traditionally male-dominated intellectual field of antiquarian collecting and scholarship in China. Longstanding cultural tropes generally encouraged antiquarian women to view their role as helpmeets to their husbands, themselves often prominent collectors. Nonetheless, some women of the era were able to deploy expertise in this well-respected field to develop significant and often boundary-pushing expertise in ancient artifacts and calligraphy. For example, late 19th century female collectors encouraged their male counterparts to pay attention to Buddhist statues as antiquarian artifacts, which significantly altered the direction of modern art historical research. As greater numbers of women entered artistic and literary fields in the 20th century, they remained interested in ancient materials, continuing to emulate the ideal of the female antiquarian.

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March 25th (Wednesday) Mia Liu

March 25th (Wednesday) Mia Liu, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Asian Studies, Bates College

Peepshow and Fortunetelling: The Peach Girl (1931) and its Contesting Visual Fields


In 1931, a film titled The Peach Girl (dir. Bu Wancang) was a box office sensation in Shanghai and beyond. A love story between a rich boy from the city and a poor girl from the country turns tragic, However, while the story is rather trite, the film offers a fascinating study of vision and opticality: it includes sequences of voyeur, peepshow, photography view-finding, and fortune-telling (gazing into future). This paper attempts to argue that through such a curating of both pre-modern and modern modes of seeing, the film asserts itself (cinema) as a visual device capable of synthesis and reconciliation. While peepshows and photography can afford special (in)sight into the present, the traditional gaze and gimmicks can help peer into the past and the future. But in the film, such temporal designation is negated and dissolved. This is cinema at its most smug, believing itself poised to break the barriers of temporality of vision. And if temporal differences are dissolved, so might be the barriers between genders, social structure, popular and avant-garde art, or even tradition and modernity.


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March 20th Zhiyang Yang

March 20th Zhiyang Yang, Ph.D. Student

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Mapping the Worldview: World Architecture in the Early 1980s


Launched in 1980 by Tsinghua University , World Architecture 世界建筑 is the earliest architectural journal devoted to bringing global currents to its domestic readers in China. It thrived into as a major force in introducing famous foreign architects and designs, presenting architectural histories, theories, ongoing debates and discourses, and most importantly, reflecting upon China’s own practice and its nascent architectural culture. During the years when actual designs and built structures by overseas companies and individuals were greatly limited in terms of both variety and impact, the journal became a crucial way linking the two worlds and forming the first-hand experience for those who were interested. It has in turned formed a specific public that later rose to power and refashioned the country’s urbanscape. The study tries to not only historicize the architectural trends in the journal and treat it as an active player in internalizing a global view into the existing Chinese historiography, but also approach it as a specific means of knowledge production and communication by studying both the visual design and textural configuration. In so doing, the study hopes to shed new light on the “cultural fever” in the 1980s in China and understand how Chinese elites capitalized their resources to further voice their desires, concerns and insecurities in an ever-globalizing context.

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Friday Feb 27th Sinéad Vilbar

Sinéad Vilbar, Curator of Japanese and Korean art

Cleveland Museum of Art

Site Specific: A Kumano Mandala Painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art

This event is sponsored by CEAS Committee on Japanese Studies


The Three Sacred Shrines at Kumano: Kumano Mandala. Japan, Kamakura period (1185-1333), ca. 1300. Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk and color on silk
The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1953.16

Shinto-Buddhist combinatory art elucidates visually the medieval Japanese Buddhist theory of honjisuijaku, literally “original ground, flowing traces”, in which Buddhist deities manifest themselves as Shinto deities (kami) in order to communicate the Dharma to residents of Japan. The corpus of paintings comprising sacred site mandalas includes shrine mandalas (miya mandara), honjisuijaku mandalas, and pilgrimage mandalas (sankei mandara). Each has a number of pictorial conventions for conveying the combinatory nature of kami and Buddhist deity veneration. In many cases, natural or manmade features specific to particular sacred sites drive the compositions of the mandalas. This workshop presentation focuses on understanding representations of Kumano and its associated deities within the larger corpus of sacred site mandalas. Special attention is given to the composition of the Kumano Shrine Mandala in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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Friday Feb 6th Quincy Ngan

Quincy Ngan

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago, Department of Art History

Qiu Ying and the Significance of Pigments in Chinese Painting

Chinese painting has long been regarded as a tradition that rejects the use of color but treasures ink and brushwork. Complicating this conventional wisdom, this dissertation argues that, in this tradition, there are painters who utilize the socio-economic and art-historical meanings of pigments to augment their painting techniques and to enhance the meaning of pictorial motifs and subject matter. To make this argument, this dissertation takes the use of azurite blue and malachite green in the paintings by the sixteenth century painter Qiu Ying (ca. 1498-1552) as a case study; then, it situates his use of the two pigments in the long and understudied history of color in Chinese painting.

During this talk, I will conduct close reading of several paintings with three goals in mind: The first goal is to illustrate the major argument in this dissertation. The second is to discuss my methodological approach in studying pigments and its significance. The third is to invite a dialogue between traditional Chinese painting and recent scholarship on the materiality of color in Euro-American and Latin-American arts.


Friday, Feb 6th, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 157

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Tingting Xu: