The Fantastic Theater of Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century

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The literati stereotype of Modern Chinese Art began as a conservative adaption of Chinese nationalist reform during the early twentieth century. Modern stereotypes provided an intuitive, common-sense way of acting and negotiating the complexities of difference. The Fantastic Theater of Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century chronicles an alternate history of Chinese émigrés’ embrace of the stereotypical image of literati culture. That stereotype was a modern form of visibility and recognition of Chinese identity. From China to diverse Western locales—Geneva, London, France, New York, and California—the literati stereotype reconciled the dual undesirable conditions of Westerners’ absent understanding and negative misunderstanding of China. The stereotype was a positive compromise of optics, expectations, and self-presentation.The visual archive of the literati stereotype examines literati scholars and their associations with learning, philosophy, and ink painting. Sculpture, books, design, advertising, ceramics, photography, architecture, and personal ephemera allow me to assemble a new approach to the artists Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Lang Jingshan (1892-1995), Zhang Shuqi (1900-1957), Yu Jingzhi (1900-1980), and Wang Jiyuan (1893-1975), to write a different history of the Bollingen Foundation, the lives of the Chew Family and their China Art Center in Carmel, and Mai-mai Sze, the little-known translator of the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting.





Tang, Kelly Chin (2022). The Fantastic Theater of Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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