Tradition Revitalized: The Chinese Painting Research Society of Republican Beijing

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Zhang, Jingmin
Kuo, Jason
In 1920 a group of traditional artists in Beijing formed the Chinese Painting Research Society, an art institution that enormously influenced Chinese art in the twentieth century. This dissertation locates this society within contemporary social, historical, and cultural trends and argues that its use of traditional Chinese art, antiquities, and even archaeology to counter Western art influence was part of a larger search for national and cultural identity. The first part of the dissertation focuses on the historical and theoretical foundations of the society. The second part sets the artistic activities of the group, including their exhibitions and journals, against contemporary cultural backdrops. The study accomplishes a number of goals. First, it sorts out the historical facts of this overlooked society in a way that reintroduces it to art historical scholarship. Second, it demonstrates that the seemingly conservative stance of the society was just a way to secure its standing and guard its goals. Third, it establishes the group's importance to the field of modern Chinese art. Finally, by thoroughly examining the society and its accomplishments, this dissertation shows that the traditional artistic approach championed by the society is worth scholarly attention, and that the modernization of Chinese painting occurred not only in Chinese-Western synthesis. Innovation within tradition was equally viable.