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.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact

May 30 Nancy Lin

Friday, May 30, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153 

The Colonial Korean Landscape and the Sketch Tour

Nancy Lin
Ph.D Candidate
University of Chicago

This paper will focus on the landscapes of colonial Korea by Japanese artists who participated in the “sketch tour” during the first decade of the colonial occupation (1910-1945).  After the annexation of Korea in 1910, Japanese artists such as Maeda Seison (1885-1977), Tsuji Kakō (1871-1931), and Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), traversed across the recently formed colonial empire as they collectively took part in the utopian project of modernism. Working in both oil painting and the more traditional nihonga style, these artists documented their travels in paintings that were exhibited in official art venues in Japan but also published their thoughts and impressions in art journals, newspapers, and lavishly illustrated sketch travel books. They traveled through city centers and visited famous natural wonders such as the Diamond Mountains, producing a variety of sketches, prints, and writings that were published upon their return to Japan. These images and texts will be examined to in order discuss how artists functioned as crucial cultural agents as they moved across expanded boundaries and their influence went far beyond the aesthetic realm, helping to shape the image of the Other. This paper will ask the following questions: What socio-cultural frameworks impinged upon their thoughts and works? Was there a practice of strategic essentialism, defining their respective identities to their audiences? Was there a question of authenticity in the roles as cultural translators? By this, I mean to ask how their affiliation to their homeland were readily apparent in their depictions of the other landscape and the foreign environs in which they were surrounded.  These questions will be addressed in order to examine how the modern artist negotiated the concepts of the Self and Other within the visual culture of the colonial empire.

Friday, May 30, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng


May 23 Wei-Cheng Lin

Friday, May 23, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153

Chinese Temple of Art: Politics of the Chinese Art Collection during the 1930s through the Lens of the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City

Wei-cheng Lin
Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 上午10.32.51

When it opened in 1933, the Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City featured one of the best Chinese art collections of the time in not only quality but also strategy of display. It included a makeshift “Chinese Temple,” consisting of authentic architectural fragments and dislocated Buddhist artifacts, remodeled to bring about an ambience of art that was Chinese in character. Tracing the artifacts from their temples of origin in China to the Temple of Art in a western museum, conventional wisdom calls to interrogate the transnational cultural imperialism that made the collection possible during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the institutional “frame” that dramatically altered its significance for a new audience. Yet the transition from a cultural object of one nation to a work of art of another is not always unequivocal, and any dislocation of art is necessarily political. This paper will unravel the complexity of the politics involved in the conception and creation of the Chinese art collection as observed in the Nelson Gallery. In particular, it will investigate the role of the authoritative “specialist”—i.e., dealers, curators, scholars—in the display of the collection informed through the intentional appropriation, alteration, and modification of the artwork to make the Chinese Temple of Art.

Friday, May 23, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng

May 16 Stephanie Su

Friday, May 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156

Imagining the Orient: Nakamura Fusetsu’s Chinese Subject Painting

Stephanie Su
PhD Candidate, University of Chicago

始制文字_1924 copy

This paper examines the politics of refashioning the past in early twentieth century Japanese art through a case study of Nakamura Fusetsu (1866-1943). During the modern period of nation-building and self-redefinition, the visual representation of “China” as an idealized cultural entity became contested terrain for Japanese painters, who gave form to their cultural assumptions and artistic ambitions. From 1901~1904, Fusetsu studied academic painting in France, and from 1907 to 1934, his submission for official exhibitions consistently included Chinese subjects based on that genre. The current scholarship categorized this body of works as “Chinese history painting;” however, Fusetsu himself in fact never used this term, instead, describing them as “Oriental subject” (tōyō daizai) paintings. Fusetsu’s characterization is worthy of notice. If they were not “history painting,” what were them and what should we call them? In addition, he articulated in his biography that his motivation for these works was to demonstrate the merits of the Japanese people. How could painting Chinese subjects manifest his cultural identity? By closely examining Fusetsu’s works within larger social-political contexts, this paper asks what role Chinese culture played in the development of modern Japanese art.

Friday, May 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng

May 2 Wei Zheng

Friday, May 2, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156

“魏晋南北朝考古的基本问题” 摘要
Fundamental Issues on Six Dynasties Archaeology
(presentation in Chinese)

Wei Zheng
Peking University

The basic issues of Six Dynasties Archeology can by divided into three general aspects:

The first aspect considers methods on dealing with archeological materials. In recent fieldwork, the largest corpus of findings in the era are tombs, city ruins and above ground remains of cave shrines. With such archeological materials, the most important issue at hand is that of dating, which is the basis for any type of further inquiry. Once the dates of these findings are confirmed, we can then trace the development of each of these three types of archeological evidence, and localize their features and interrelationships.

The second aspect considers the main features of this time period, and the types of social issues that it gave rise to. These questions may be crucial for Six Dynasties archaeology, even though smiliar issues may not exist or be the main focus for other time periods. What is central to understanding Six Dynasties archaeology are issues such as transitional characteristics, mass migration, interaction with peripheral communities, elite society and culture, the rapid feudalization of northern regimes, the spread of religion, cultural exchange, etc. These specific questions are based upon the social context of the Six Dynasties period.

The third aspect considers the relationship between research on Six Dynasties history and archaeology. How do we interpret archoleogical findings through the lens of history? How do we intergrate historical texts and findngs in the field? These questions focus on issues of state regulations, rites and customs, as well as the econonimcal developments of this period. The three aspects that I have mentioned above should be taken as a intergrated whole, which cannot be clearly seperated from each other in scholarship and fieldwork.

Friday, May 2, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156

Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng

April 16 Anne Feng

Wednesday, April 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156
(This is a joint event with the Art History Working Group)

Waters on the Wall: Illusionism, Meditation and the Making of Western Paradise Images in China and Central Asia, 7th – 8th century

Anne Feng
Art History
Ph.D Student


Wednesday, April 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng


April 4 Guo Weiqi

Friday, April 4, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156

The Broken Yellow Court on Stone: Between Art History and Visual Culture

Guo Weiqi
Art History
Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

This presentation will be conducted in English.


Friday, April 4, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 156
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng



Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia is proud present our schedule for Spring 2014:

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

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 下午1.16.44photo by Anne Feng 

Special Talk by Dunhuang Academy Delegation
April 3, Thursday, 4:30-6:30, Rosenthal Seminar Room, Regenstein Library rm. 133
“Images of Maheśvara from Dunhuang and Khotan and Related Issues”
(presentation in Chinese)
This event is sponsored by CEAS Committee on Chinese Studies, the Creel Center for Chinese Paleography.

April 4
Guo Weiqi (Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts)
The Broken Yellow Court on Stone: Between Art History and Visual Culture

April 16
Anne Feng, Ph.D Student (University of Chicago)
Waters on the Wall: Illusionism, Meditation and the Making of Western Paradise Images in China and Central Asia, 7th – 8th century

May 2
Wei Zheng (Peking University)
Fundamental Issues of Wei-Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties Archaeology
(presentation in Chinese)

May 16
Stephanie Su, PhD Candidate  (University of Chicago, Art History)
Imagining the Orient: Nakamura Fusetsu’s Chinese Subject Painting

May 23
Lin Wei-cheng, Assistant Professor
(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Chinese Temple of Art: Politics of the Chinese Art Collection during the 1930s and 40s through the Lens of the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City

May 30
Nancy Lin, PhD Candidate  (University of Chicago, Art History)
The Female Figure: Defining Beauty in Colonial Korea



March 7 GU Yi

Friday, March 7, 3:30-5:30pm, CWAC 153

What Did Photography Do to Chinese Painting?

Assistant Professor of Art History
University of Toronto

 Zhu Shouren_Qujing

This presentation aims to illuminate a fundamental perceptual shift in Republican China through a close analysis of key art terms such as “view-taking”(qujing), “composition”(goutu), and “perspective”(toushi). These terms, still widely used in Chinese art writing to this day, were promulgated by the discourses and practices of art photography during the 1920s and 30s. The perceptual mode undergirding these terms had a great impact on the way guohua (traditional style painting) painters reconfigured their practices. Incompatibility between the grand vista of traditional monumental landscape painting and new optical knowledge based on Euclidean optics prompted guohua painters to develop new ways of depicting landscape as well as new understandings of the nature of painting. While modern Chinese art has often been categorized as a development arising from the tension between attempts at modernization inspired by the West and efforts to honor and preserve the tradition, the overlooked trajectories of these terms remind us how categories such as “the West” and “Chinese” were historical contingent constructions.

Friday, March 7, 3:00-5:00pm, CWAC 153
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng

This event is a joint-workshop with Arts & Politics on East Asia (APEA)

Feb 28 Quincy Ngan

Friday, February 28, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153

To Frame, Highlight, and Cite Pictorial Motifs with Azurite:
Qiu Ying’s Polarizing Blue

Quincy Ngan
PhD Candidate
University of Chicago


This chapter reveals that the 16th century painter Qiu Ying (ca. 1498-1552) often reserved azurite blue for the most important pictorial element in a composition; for example, he used the pigment to highlight motifs bearing stylistic references to ancient masters. However, since blue also appears elsewhere, the importance of what is highlighted is always camouflaged so as to carry differing messages to different audiences. For example, in one of his painting patronized by the Xiang family, azurite blue appears to highlight of motifs that reference to an actual ancient painting in the Xiang family’s collection. And yet, without broad understanding of ancient painting styles, this art-historical reference in this painting is hardly recognizable. Analyzing what pictorial elements are picked up by azurite blue in five paintings, this chapter shows that the blue mineral carries information about the artistic exchange between Qiu Ying and his elite contemporaries, as well as the fraternity between the three brothers of the Xiang family and their vanity and aspiration of being erudite scholars.

This sophisticated use of the blue pigment represents a self-conscious effort on the part of Qiu Ying and his patron to differentiate themselves from their contemporaries who produced and purchased heavily pigmented paintings, and to avoid such exhibitions of conscious consumption. This argument about sophistication, subtlety, and differentiation of Qiu Ying and his patron’s uses of blue is further supported by the evidence of other paintings discussed in this chapter. Even though these paintings were produced before Qiu Ying’s time, they too consciously use azurite blue as a way to add focal points to a painting and to subtly state one’s distinguish social status. Therefore they represent the earliest predecessors of Qiu’s practice.


Friday, February 28, 4:00-6:00pm, CWAC 153
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact Anne Feng