Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting

AUTHOR: Yi Gu

About the Book

How did modern Chinese painters see landscape? Did they depict nature in the same way as premodern Chinese painters? What does the artistic perception of modern Chinese painters reveal about the relationship between artists and the nation-state? Could an understanding of modern Chinese landscape painting tell us something previously unknown about art, political change, and the epistemological and sensory regime?

Yi Gu tackles these questions by focusing on the rise of open-air painting in modern China. Chinese artists almost never painted outdoors until the late 1910s, when the New Culture Movement prompted painters to embrace direct observation, linear perspective, and a conception of vision based on Cartesian optics. The new landscape practice brought with it unprecedented emphasis on perception and redefined artistic expertise. Central to the pursuit of open-air painting from the late 1910s right through to the early 1960s was a reinvigorated and ever-growing urgency to see suitably as a Chinese and to see the Chinese homeland correctly. Through its examination of this long-overlooked ocular turn, this book not only provides an innovative perspective from which to reflect on complicated global and local Chinese interactions, but also calls for rethinking the nature of visual modernity in China.

About the Author

Yi Gu is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Art and Cultural History at the University of Toronto.

Harvard University's Asia-Related Resources