Beyond Nationalism: The Work of Xu Jianbai in Maoist China, 1949 - 1979

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2012

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Beyond Nationalism: The Work of Xu Jianbai in Maoist China, 1949-1979, examines the life and work of the contemporary Chinese painter Xu Jianbai (1925 - ) as an access point to reconsider Chinese art under the period of Mao Zedong as a more complex and varied narrative than what has been relayed by traditional scholarship. The project considers the biography of the artist, especially her training under Lin Fengmian and in the United States and later persecution, as a key component to understanding her choice of style and subject matter. In the thesis, I argue for a more inclusive history of Chinese painting from this era. Paintings by artists like Xu Jianbai, which one might dismiss as non-representative of art at the time, are actually an entry point into a broader understanding of the divisive and varied culture and politics in China under the dictatorship of Mao Zedong.

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