Modern Chinese Artists: A Biographical Dictionary / Edition 1

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The first biographical dictionary of its kind in any Western language, this pioneering work provides short, information-packed entries for approximately 1,800 Chinese artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
In recent years interest in modern Chinese art has spread across the globe. Public and private collections are being formed; courses in modern Chinese art are offered in many universities and museums. At the same time, the number of practicing artists in China and the amount of published material have greatly increased. Michael Sullivan’s pathbreaking book Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, published in 1996, included a biographical index of some eight hundred artists. This volume includes more than twice that number, with entries that have been revised, expanded, and brought up to date. Illustrated with portraits and photographs of more than seventy leading artists, this comprehensive, convenient reference will be an essential tool for anyone interested in the study or collection of modern Chinese art.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520244498
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Sullivan is Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and Fellow Emeritus at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University. His many books include The Arts of China (Fourth edition, expanded and revised, 2000), Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China (1996) and The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art: Revised and Expanded Edition (1997), all from California.

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Read an Excerpt

Modern Chinese Artists

A biographical dictionary
By Michael Sullivan

University of California Press

Copyright © 2006 The Regents of the University of California
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-520-24449-4


In the mid twentieth century, Western interest in modern Chinese art was minimal. Few museums or private collectors had ventured into this uncharted territory, one reason being that Westerners tended to dismiss modern Chinese art as either the tail end of a dying tradition or as feeble attempts to copy Western art. Although a number of Chinese artists who later became famous studied Western drawing, painting, and sculpture in the West, particularly in Paris, the works presented in exhibitions, such as those brought to Europe by Xu Beihong and Liu Haisu in the mid 1930s, and shown by Alan Priest at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in 1948, were exclusively safe traditional painting, guohua, easily recognized as Chinese. But few even of such works as these were accessible for purchase to museums and collectors. In the meantime, Wang Yiqiang had in 1947 published a useful reference work for Chinese readers, Zhonghua Minguo sanshiliunian meishu nianjian (Art yearbook for the thirty-sixth year of the Republic of China).

After 1950 this general attitude to modern Chinese art began to change. Although the import into the United States of anythingoriginating in Communist China was forbidden, works by living guohua masters were coming to Europe, either bought in China by, for instance, Vadime Elisséeff of the Musée Cernuschi in Paris and Arno Schüller in Prague, or, in Switzerland, Charles Drenowatz and Dr. Franco Vannotti-the latter acquiring most of his collection by exchange of Western art books with the Chinese cultural authorities. In the meantime modern guohua was appearing in the Hong Kong auction houses in ever increasing quantities, much of it expropriated from the artists and sold by Chinese official bodies (often without the artists' permission or knowledge) for much-needed foreign exchange. Li Keran, for example, was dismayed when some of his landscapes, which he had lent to the Rongbaozhai art publishing house for reproduction, turned up in the sale rooms in Hong Kong. Mrs. Shen's Gallery opposite the British Museum in London was for many years the chief commercial outlet in Europe for works that had been legally exported from the People's Republic.

In 1972 the United States government lifted the embargo on the import of Chinese goods, while in 1979 in China the cultural thaw, which slowly developed after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, began to stimulate the free flow of art from China that has since expanded into a flood. In Europe and America museums began seriously to collect modern Chinese art; auction houses mounted frequent specialized sales; commercial galleries devoted to the contemporary movements sprang up; and the number of private collectors steadily increased. At the same time twentieth-century Chinese art became, almost for the first time, the subject of serious scholarly study. Today courses and seminars on the subject are offered in leading universities in Europe and the United States, and an increasing number of doctoral theses are devoted to aspects of this fascinating and hitherto almost unexplored subject.

Meantime, in China, the social and economic revolution that gathered pace in the last two decades of the twentieth century has had a profound effect on the art world. While some artists still gain their living chiefly by teaching, more and more are independent, deriving their living partly from ever increasing foreign sales, partly from a domestic market that is the product of the new commercialism of the cities and the emergence of a new moneyed class. Yet ambitious Chinese artists still count on foreign recognition, secured by exhibitions in the West and showing in such events as the São Paulo and Venice Biennales-with which the Shanghai Biennale and the new international exhibitions in other Chinese major cities are now competing.

The effect of these economic and social changes has been a vast increase in the production of works of art and of the number of practicing Chinese artists whose work is becoming known in the West. When the Western study of modern Chinese art was in its infancy, I included in my book Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century (1959), a biographical index listing 261 artists, for which much of the information had been given to me by my painter friend Pang Xunqin in Chengdu during World War II and in subsequent correspondence between us after I left China in 1946. Lin Jiantong's Dangdai Zhongguo huaren minglu (Biographies of present-day Chinese artists) appeared in 1971. The next book on this subject was Tsuruta Takeyoshi's Kindai Chugoku kaiga (Modern Chinese painting) (Tokyo, 1974); Tsuruta also published the brief biographical notes he had accumulated in the art journal Bijutsu Kenkyu (Fine Art Research) between 1974 and 1978. The artists included were almost exclusively conservative practitioners of guohua. Ten years later the University of California Press published Ellen Laing's The Winking Owl: Art in the People's Republic of China, covering the period up to the arrest of the Gang of Four in September 1976 and including "Brief Biographical Notices" of 168 artists. In 1984 Laing's much more substantial Index to Reproductions of Paintings by Twentieth-Century Chinese Artists contained thousands of listings of works reproduced in periodicals, along with somewhat skeletal biographical information. Other works that contain useful biographies are included in the Bibliography at the back of this book.

My own book Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China (1996) included a biographical index with more than eight hundred entries, but, as I am well aware, it contains a number of errors and omissions and is by no means definitive. I am therefore particularly grateful to the University of California Press for giving me this opportunity to produce a more substantial work, which I hope will provide a useful reference source for Western scholars and students of modern Chinese art, collectors, museums, libraries, dealers, and auction houses.

The artists chosen for inclusion (among the many thousands listed, for example, in such Chinese works as Zhongguo meishu nianjian [Beijing, 1988]) are those who attained some reputation in China in the twentieth century and opening years of the twenty-first, even though born in the nineteenth, and those whose works are likely to appear in collections, exhibitions, and auctions abroad. Only artists who grew up, or were trained, in China are included, even if they subsequently went abroad to work during, for instance, the diaspora of the 1980s and '90s. Inevitably, the choice of whom to include, whom to leave out, is to some degree subjective, and I take full responsibility for it. The term yishu, fine art, embraces both painting and calligraphy-indeed in Chinese eyes calligraphy is the mistress of the arts. The number of accomplished calligraphers, from Mao Zedong down, in modern China is huge; but I have excluded them unless they were also known as painters, for otherwise this book would be of unmanageable size.

Compiling the entries was a challenge. Biographical information is uneven and sometimes conflicting. Sources cite three different dates, for example, for the birth of Chen Zhifu (1895, 1896, 1898), while artists have sometimes intentionally fiddled with their date of birth, the most celebrated case being that of Qi Baishi, who added two years to his age on the advice of a fortune-teller. Moreover, even when an artist born, say, in 1904 has not been heard of for decades, that is no proof that he or she is deceased. Chinese artists often live to a great age. Zhu Qizhan was still serenely painting until shortly before his death at the age of 104. The calligrapher Yang Chaoshen wrote an inscription for me in Singapore at the age of 118. He died four years later. I hope that users of this dictionary will pass on to me any information of this sort, or corrections and additions, that may be included in subsequent editions.

Although I have been adding to this dictionary from time to time for half a century, it would be far less comprehensive and accurate without the help of a number of young friends who have made their contributions to it over the years, beginning with Dr. Mayching Kao, who completed what was probably the first Western doctoral thesis on modern Chinese art at Stanford University in 1972. She was followed at Oxford University by Dr. Xiu Huajing Maske, whose thesis in the same area earned her a D.Phil. in 2000. Since my retirement, several post-graduate students at Oxford have contributed in a number of ways, with research, typing, and editorial work, the insertion of Chinese characters, checking entries, and putting the work on disk. I should like particularly to mention Professor Li-ling Hsiao of the University of North Carolina; Dr. Hsiao-ting Lin, Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Hiromi Kinoshita, Fuyubi Nakamura, Josh Yiu, Ruth Hung, Wang Hsien-chun, and He Weimin at Oxford University; and Dr. James Lin at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Working with them on this and other projects during our weekly sessions at Northmoor Road has been, and continues to be, one of the great pleasures of our life at Oxford. For helpful corrections and additions, I should also like to express my gratitude to Dr. Joshua Jiang in Birmingham; Dr. Maxwell Hearn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Professors Pang Tao, Chen Ruilin, Shui Tianzhong, Lang Shaojun, Chen Weihe, and Meg Maggio and Robert Bernell in Beijing; Professor Cao Yiqiang in Hangzhou; Dr. Britta Erickson at Stanford; Dr. Zheng Tiansheng in Vancouver; Professor Jason Kuo at the University of Maryland; Professor Jerome Silbergeld at Princeton; Claire Roberts in Sydney; Professor Wan Qingli in Hong Kong; Claire Hsü and her colleagues in the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; Johnson Zhangan Jeff Leung at Hanart T Z Gallery, Hong Kong, and especially Professor Hong Zaixin at the University of Puget Sound for the great care with which he went through the manuscript and for long and illuminating discussions with him.

As always, I am happy to record my appreciation of the work done at the University of California Press by all those involved in the production of this book, especially my lynx-eyed cheerful copyeditor Amy Klatzkin, as well as Deborah Kirshman, Sue Heinemann, Sigi Nacson, and the designer Jessica Grunwald.

I should also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to George Russell, who, once again, contributed in a very practical way to my work, and in particular to the Master and Fellows of St. Catherine's College, Oxford, who have given me not only a home, but also much generous support and encouragement during the time of my Fellowship and after.

Not least do I wish to thank all our Chinese artist friends who, over a period of sixty years, have given us not only information and catalogues of their exhibitions, but even works of art for the collection that my late wife Khoan and I built up over the years. Without them, indeed, this work could never have been contemplated.


Excerpted from Modern Chinese Artists by Michael Sullivan Copyright © 2006 by The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Name Changes of Principal Art Academies
Biographical Dictionary

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