Undergraduate Seminar: “Fantastic and Eccentrics” Revisited: Painting in Seventeenth-Century China
This seminar examines one of the most vibrant episodes in the history of Chinese painting, a period that is diverse not only in stylistic expressions, but also in the social and discursive forces that came to bear on painting practice and theory. During this period in China, painting as an artistic practice came to acquire a status that mirrors its modern counterpart, both in its potentials and the problems it posed. Some of the questions we shall ask include: How do we understand stylistic choices when contact with Europe has tipped, once and for all, the balance between naturalism and abstraction for Chinese painters? What was “new” about intense efforts to engage with “old” master styles? What was “new” about painterly expressions that deliberately shunned such revivalist efforts? How do we account for artistic practice in a time of great upheaval? What is a political reading of painting, and what is a painted expression of politics? Finally, what are the benefits and pitfalls of studying la longue durée of the Chinese seventeenth century vis-à-vis dynastic divisions or other historical schemes?
Knowledge of Chinese art is not required. We will begin with a brief historiographical survey of Chinese painting. Class meetings will take place at the James Cahill Study Center at BAMPFA and the Starr East Asian Library to take full advantage of the collections of Chinese paintings and printed matters held therein.
This seminar fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographic Area (B) and Chronological Period (II).