PANG XUNQIN (1906-1985) - A CHINESE AVANT-GARDE'S METAMORPHOSIS, 1925-1946, AND QUESTIONS OF "AUTHENTICITY"

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2009

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This dissertation has three goals. The first is to chart the artistic life of Pang Xunqin (1906-1985) and his art works from 1929 to 1946. Pang's metamorphosis from an aspiring young artist in Paris and Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s, into an artist in his own right, a graphic designer, an educator, and a scholar of the history of Chinese art and craft, while ceaselessly trying to renew himself - all this is a record that deserves an art historical recognition.

The second goal is to locate Pang Xunqin in the historiography of Chinese modern art in an attempt to problematize issues of inclusion and exclusion in the historiography of the field. The third goal, which is closely tied to the second, is to utilize post-colonial inquiries to explore myriad issues of non-Western modernism embodied in Pang Xunqin's case. Such issues include the divisions among the "traditionalists," the "academic realists," and the "modernists," colonial cosmopolitanism in the Shanghai of the 30s, and the appropriation of "primitivism" in the 40s. Attention also focuses on the issues of authenticity and "hybridity," Western orientalization of the East and self-orientalization by the East in cross-cultural encounters, and identity politics and nationalistic agendas in the construct of the guohua (national painting) and xihua (Western painting) divide. The post-colonial methodology employed here helps raise questions regarding the binary construct of tradition vs. modernity, the East vs. the West, the center vs. the periphery, and the global vs. the local.

By placing Pang Xunqin's case in its semi-colonial historical and transnational context and by engaging in dialogue with the recent rich scholarship on cultural and post-colonial critiques, in conjunction with a formal analysis of his paintings and designs, this dissertation offers not only a monographic study of Pang's artistic life but also a critical examination and reassessment of the established art historical narratives of Western-trained artists in the historiography of Chinese modern art.

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