Learning New Painting from Japan and Maintaining National Pride in Early Twentieth Century China, with Focus on Chen Shizeng (1876-1923)
Kuo, Jason C
MetadataShow full item record
In the early twentieth century, many Chinese painters went to Japan to study. This dissertation argues that, despite learning from Japan, these artists sought to create a better future for Chinese painting. They did not desire to create a single kind of "Eastern painting" with their Japanese counterparts. The Chinese had long claimed a kind of cultural superiority, called Sino-centrism, which did not diminish in the early twentieth century. The Japanese, however, developed a kind of thinking termed pan-Asianism, in which Asia was considered a unity, and Japan, its leader. Because of this difference, the similarities between Chinese art and Japanese art in the early twentieth century cannot be interpreted as the emergence of an "Asian art" because the Chinese did not endorse Japanese pan-Asianism. Li Shutong was one of the first Chinese painters to visit Japan to learn Western-style painting. Gao Jianfu, founder of the Lingnan School, went to Japan to learn painting and returned with the style known as Nihonga, a synthesis of traditional Japanese painting and Western-style painting. Chen Shizeng was a traditional painter of the scholar class. He also went to Japan to study. But he studied natural history, not painting. Chen Shizeng was most active during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s and early 1920s, when radicals wanted to abandon traditional Chinese culture. They called for a total adoption of Western culture. Although Chen Shizeng was open-minded to Western culture, he chose to defend traditional Chinese literati painting. His translation of Japanese scholar &#332;mura Seigai's essay The Revival of Literati Painting was part of this defense. Chen Shizeng was strongly influenced by his teacher Wu Changshuo (1844-1927). He was inspired also by other great Chinese painters of the past, and he adapted some Western methods that he learned in Japan. However, the Japanese influence in his painting should not be interpreted as his attempt to create an "Eastern art" in collaboration with Japanese painters.