Experimental Approaches Toward Western Art Techniqure and Concepts By Liu Haisu

This exhibition is mainly about Liu Haisu’s experimentation in both western techniques and traditional Chinese paintings. As one of the earliest Chinese artists who had influenced by western art techniques, Liu Haisu spent his caareer tried to cross the boundry between Western oil paintings and traditional Chinese paintings, and his art had several evolutions under different historical contexts from his early years to late years.

Liu Haisu was born in 1896 and started being influenced by western art when he was a teenager. One of the most significant controversies in his early years was that he was criticized “traiter in art” when he was doing nude figure studies, and since that Liu Haisu had been the rebellious artist who broke the rules for hundreds of years and was aim to find new possiblilities for tradtional Chinese art under the influence from Western art techniques and so as Western art development in China. Liu visited Japan for the first time in 1918, which was the time he had chance to learn about Western modern art concepts such as Impressionism and Postimpressionism systematically, and he started promoting Western art education in China since then. Liu Haisu lived 98 years, so he had quite a long career as an artist, and he lived in serveral different social contexts in Chinese history, which made his works distinct from different periods of time.

During the late years of Liu Haisu’s career, he did not stop explration, but kept breakthoughing his own art concepts. One example we are going to discuss was made in the late years of Liu’s career, from which we are able to see Liu’s style after decades of development and evolution in his own concept, which was sigmificantly influanced by both western art and traditonal Chinese culture. “Lotus Peak of Yellow Mountain” was made by Liu Haisu at his seventies. At this stage, Liu had be so maturaly using both Chinese and Western painting techniques, that the “rules of art” had been something restricted him from kept breakthroughing. Unlike the paintings from Liu’s earlier years, the brushwork was weaken in this painting; and Liu tended to animate the landscape, light and shadows by jaxtaposing ink wash and blank paper. And from this painting, the audience are able to see the change in Liu Haisu’s style in his late yrars and that Liu never stopped art exploration as an artist who spent most of his life as a pioneer of Chinese modern art.

“Lotus Peak of Yellow Mountain” by Liu Haisu


Xiaoping, Lin. “Contemporary Chinese Painting: The Leading Masters and the Younger Generation.” Leonardo 20, no. 1 (1987): 47-55. Accessed May 11, 2020. doi:10.2307/1578211.

“Painting Academies and Western Influence.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58, no. 3 (2001): 20-25. Accessed May 11, 2020. doi:10.2307/3269183.

Breaking Barriers: The formation and expression of a female identity

My exhibition explores themes of female identity through the lens of the life and work of Pan Yuliang and other female Chinese artists.

In the early 20th century, China was experiencing radical social and political turmoil. This upheaval ushered in a change in women’s roles in society and the opportunities afforded to them. As a result of what is referred to as the 1919 May Fourth Movement, education for women became more attainable as, for the first time, co-education was allowed (Teo 2016, 39-41). With greater opportunities for women, came an increased awareness of their rights and social roles, now less restricted by traditional Chinese ethics (Li 2000, 31). Along with more freedom, women sought new ways to express themselves and discover an identity outside of being a mother, daughter, or wife.

Pan Yuliang was born in 1895, orphaned at a young age, she was considered a piece of property. She was sold and bought, eventually marrying Customs Official, Pan Zanhua as his concubine at only 18 (Andrews 1998, 178). Suddenly married to an official, her social status changed dramatically which afforded her the opportunity to pursue her talent for art. Pan grabbed the chance to go to the Shanghai Art Academy when education became co-ed for the first time in 1919 (Teo 2016, 41). She then traveled to Europe in 1921 on fine arts government scholarship as one of the first of the Chinese students to study art in France where she eventually made her home. It was rare at the time for women to achieve independent careers as professional artists (Ng 2019, 21-31). Pan Yuliang was a pioneer as both an artist and a woman. 

Pan painted thousands of paintings throughout her life in a wide variety of styles. Pan’s art reflects both her western training as well as her Chinese heritage, with some paintings in brilliant, vivid, fauvist styles and others in the more traditional ink on paper Chinese styles (Ng 2019, 21-31). The majority of her work, however, combines these two aspects of her life, both in technique and subject matter. Said subject matter is the most striking and revolutionary aspect of Pan’s work. The one uniting theme throughout all of her art is women. Pan painted women of all different backgrounds in various aspects of life. Over half of her paintings were non-white female nudes (Teo 2016, 57), embracing all flaws and imperfections in, not only the female body, but also their lives. Pan’s art is a rebellion against the commodification of the female body and an expression of a female identity. From her nudes to her self portraits, Pan strove to represent women openly and without shame.

Pan Yuliang, Artist Self-Portrait, 1963. Oil on Canvas, 80 x 65 cm. (Source: Teo 2016, 34)

Works cited:

Andrews, Julia Frances, and Kuiyi Shen. “The Lure of the West: Modern Chinese Oil Painting.” In A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1998. 172-78.

Li, Yuhui. “Women’s movement and change of women’s status in China.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 1, no. 1 (2000): 30-40.

Ng, Sandy. “The Art of Pan Yuliang: Fashioning the Self in Modern China.” Woman’s Art Journal 40, no. 1 (2019): 21–31.

Teo, Phyllis. “Pan Yuliang: The Misunderstood ‘Mistress’ of Western Painting.” In Rewriting modernsim. Three women artists in twentieth-century China: Pan Yuliang, Nie Ou and Yin Xiuzhen. Leiden University Press (LUP): Leiden, 2016.

Li Keran: Evolution of Landscape Painting

Li Keran: Evolution of Landscape Painting 

Li Keran (1907-1989) was one of the prolific Chinese artists of the twentieth century. He was born from an illiterate family where he lacked in formal education. Although he never went to school, he was extremely gifted in the arts from an early age and was accepted into the Shanghai Art College without any previous education based on the work he was able to produce. At the age of 42, Li Keran experienced vast social and cultural change in his home nation of China when Mao Zedong of the Communist Party declared the People’s Republic of China after the end of the Chinese Communist Revolution. The Great Leap Forward Campaign presented by Mao Zedong was a campaign set to allow economic and social change which decimated China and turned many art academies into factories. During the Cultural Revolution, Li Keran had to face incrimination from the Red Guard who confiscated and destroyed many of his works (Hawks 2017). The Red Guard criticized him for adhering for the ways of Old China. After this he was imprisoned, where he was forced to transcribe the thoughts and words of Mao. He used this time to develop his form of calligraphy and art instead of the content, out of fear of disobeying the Red Guard. After his release, he used ancient seal scripts to develop a new form of calligraphy that exhibited much more emotion and energy than previously seen before (Roberts 2007). 

Li Keran had his own unique form of landscape painting, where he used extensive amounts of ink. He adapted his art form over time based on his cautious political approach. Before 1949, his most prolific works were those of ancient figures and water buffalo (Hawks 2017). Once the Communist Party took over, he was not allowed to create art that did not put the party in high regard. Post 1949, Li Keran moved on to landscape paintings. Since landscape paintings were seen as works of Old China, Li Keran modified it by blending the traditionalist view of landscapes with a scientific outlook from the west. It is important to understand the difficulties Li Keran went through in order to establish his voice in a rapidly-changing New China. He was bombarded with many challenges throughout his life, but ultimately, prevailed. 

Li Keran, ‘Inspired by Wang Wei’s poetry, ink and color on paper, 1987. 




Hawks, Shelley Drake. The Art of Resistance : Painting by Candlelight in Mao’s China Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017. 


Roberts, Claire. “A Century of Li Keran: Commemorating the Centenary of a Guohua Artist.” A Century of Li Keran . China Heritage Quarterly, The Australian National University, December 2007.

Chinese Government Through the Lens of Ding Cong’s Political Cartoons

The 20th century in China is dominated by political and government changes that was shaped from their prior history. Art was greatly effected by these changes, whether it was the subject of the paintings or drawings, or the style of art, or the techniques used in each work. These changes were both voluntary and involuntary, depending on who was the leader of the country throughout the 1900s. One artist that spoke out against the forced change was Ding Cong, and through his political drawings, his message of exposing government corruption, along with illuminating realities that China faced, was widely known.

Ding Cong, also known as Xiao Ding (Little Ding), created many drawings over his career that shed light on what the average Chinese citizen was experiencing, and after the Sino-Japanese War, many Chinese, including Ding himself, struggled to survive during a period of rampant inflation (Ristaino 2009, 60). A few of his drawings represented the incredible inflation, with some drawings referring to national and abroad problems associated with it. Ding extensively drew upon the rampant corruption, market chaos, uncontrolled inflation, and abject poverty and unemployment that plagued Chinese citizens in his drawings. His signature stylistic trait that most of his art had were contradictions in society – depicting rich and poor or abuser and abused – to portray a country in morale decline (Ristaino 2009, 62). One drawing, that was published on the cover of a popular Shanghai magazine Zhoubao (Weekly Magazine), called “The Perfect Citizen” (1945) highlights the different ways the Nationalist regime would censor the population. The figure has his brain opened for brainwashing, his ears plugged with bribes, his eyes shaded by sunglasses, and his lips locked together (Ristaino 2009, 63).

My theme will present works by Ding Cong that show the changing environment Chinese citizens faced throughout the civil war (1945-1949), the Anti-Rightist Movement (1957-1968) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). My hope is to arrange pieces in a way to show both differences and similarities between the time periods through Ding’s work.

Art of Resistance - Art History Publication Initiative

“The Perfect Citizen” (1945)

Ristaino, Marcia R. Chinas Intrepid Muse: the Cartoons and Art of Ding Cong. Warren, CT: Floating World Editions, 2009.


The Effects of War and Revolution on the Cartoons of Feng Zikai

The Chinese artist Feng Zikai was born in 1898 in the Zhe Jiang Province. He always loved painting and decided to enhance that knowledge by studying abroad in Japan in 1921. Many of his works after this were inspired by the new Western styles he learned while abroad. His love for all the arts lead him to teaching where he taught music and art in Chun Hui Middle School once back in China. (“The Award and Feng Zikai”). He developed a love and admiration for the spirits of children, and he first became known as an artist with a series of cartoons portraying lovable, mischievous children. (Hung 1994, 137)

Feng Zikai developed his cartoon skills based on the light-hearted topic of children, even modeling his cartoons after his own children. He also added a song or verse among his drawings to make them more poetic and meaningful. (Hung 1994, 137) His style combined traditional Chinese brush strokes with contemporary social settings, including humor and religious purport. (Hung 1994, 138) However, he did not classify himself as a traditionalist, but created more modern pieces that reflect his observation of the world around him. During and after the second Sino-Japanese War, Feng used his platform to reflect wartime ideologies. (Lin 2003, 5) Feng and his family were forced to flee and live as refugees during the Japanese attacks. By living through these experiences, “Feng now believed that art could and should play a major role in saving China.” (Lin 2003, 105) Therefore, Feng created many prints and cartoons related to his suffering, the suffering of the Chinese people, and the corruption that entailed.

In my exhibition, my goal is to focus on the artworks Feng Zikai created during and after the war period, and how much they differ from his prewar artwork. Not only does Feng’s work reflect this time period, but he was also around during the Chinese cultural revolution, and he created many cartoons in secret that reflect his take on that particular time period that might not have been accepted by the strict Communist government. This theme is important, because Feng lived through two of the most important historical phenomenon’s that took place in China during the twentieth century. I want to focus on how war affected his art and the way he viewed the world differently throughout his life. I want to emphasize how Feng was speaking for the people of China during that time through his artwork and how he used his art to resist and arouse nationalism. (Hung 1994, 140)


Feng Zikai, A mother’s head severed. From China Weekly Review 88.6 (8 April 1939): 177. Scroll, ink on paper. Image source: http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft829008m5/

As we can see from this image, Feng is portraying a mother being brutally killed while she is nursing her baby. He includes a poem to the right of the image about the tragic scene. This scene of a child alters greatly from the lighthearted cartoons of children he painted before the war. This image shows the tragic affect the war had on Feng, as well as how he thought it affected the innocent women and children of China.


Hung, Chang-tai. War and Popular Culture: Resistance in Modern China, 1937-1945. Berkeley:  University of California Press, c1994 1994. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft829008m5/

Lin, Su-Hsing “Feng Zikai’s Art and the Kaiming Book Company: art for the people in early twentieth century China.” Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2003. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

“The Award and Feng Zikai.” Feng Zikai. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://fengzikaibookaward.org/en/about-the-award/the-award-and-feng-zikai/.

How years of Chinese Cultural and Artistic Oppression brought Ai Weiwei to the World

Chinese art has come a long way over the years when it comes to the freedom of expression that a Chinese artist is allowed to display. In the years under Mao Zedong, Chinese artist probability experienced the largest amount of oppression when it came to their artistic freedom. The only art during these cultural revolution times, where pieces that showed off the greatness that is China, Communism and the leader Mao. Scholars tend to think that after Mao’s passing that Chinese art for the first time in a long time becomes free again to send messages free of Communist propaganda. But if one was to ask Ai Weiwei if he thought he was free to express himself though his art in modern day china, he would most likely respond that he cannot produce his work in China.

Ai Weiwei is one of the first Chinese contemporary artist. One of the first exhibitions that Ai Weiwei participated in was the Stars Art group, who for the first time in China had an avant garde exhibition. This exhibition featured several pieces of art that where not in line with the government party and appeared to have other political messages that the Chinese government would like. As a result the exhibition was shutdown. Much like the first person to do anything, Ai Weiwei’s work was often not understood in the beginning, much like early Warhol work who Ai Weiwei has said he took inspiration from. This stars exhibition inspired Chinese artist to look at art differently for the first time.

Much later down the road after Ai Weiweis continued to refine his artistic personality. His art had begun to draw to much negative attention from the Chinese government as a result of his artwork. In 2011 this culminated in the Chinese government detaining him for several months and then eventually being put on house arrest. While he was on house arrest there where security cameras installed by the Chinese government looking into his home. This prompted him to recreate these cameras in a classical method of carved marble. This back and forth artistic struggle between Ai Weiwei and the Chinese government eventually prompted him to move away from China with his family while still creating powerful works of art with meaning while drawing attention to Chinese or greater world problems that he feels must not be overlooked.

The Differences Between Artistic Expression Pre- and Post-Mao’s Death

My final exhibition will focus on the works of Chen Yifei during Mao’s reign as well as after Mao’s death in 1976. Chen was a well respected artist in the eyes of the Communist party leaders for his artwork portraying the devotion of communist soldiers as well as their battles against the Nationalist and Japanese forces.

Chen caught the eye of the officials in the Communist party for his adoption of the Socialist Realism style early on in his career. The socialist realist art style reflected the socialists in a positive, strong, and inspiring light in order to create support for the party. Red Flag I (1971-72) was such a painting which drew support for the communist party from the viewer. This painting was a large portrayal of several communist soldiers who are ready to charge into battle. They all display the red star symbolizing the communist party on their hats and the soldier closest to the viewer — and as such is closest to the danger of the coming battle– is proudly holding the red flag. The soldiers show no fear in their faces, rather they show pride and confidence in the face of death. These details combined with the vast size of the painting displays a sense of pride in the viewer and evokes a feeling of being protected by the communist party.

After the death of Mao, Chen’s works change drastically to focus on individual portraits. One such portrait titled, The Flutist (1987), portrays a woman playing the flute while in an elegant black dress. This is a drastic change from Chen’s previous works as it portrays the subjects individual wealth and talent which contrasts the communist ideals of equality for everyone. This change was inspired by Chen’s move to New York in 1980 where he studied western art.

This change displays how restrictions on art were loosened after Mao’s death and artists were able to created what they were passionate about. The emphasis on portraying the communist party was diminished and as such artists from across China began to express themselves through styles other than Socialist realism.

chen, yifei red flag 1 ||| history ||| sotheby's hk0488lot75f82en

Chen Yifei, Red Flag I, Oil on Canvas, Dimensions: 300 x 159 cm (118.1 x 62.6 in.), 1971-1972. Source: http://www.artnet.com/artists/chen-yifei/red-flag-1-tBXyFFUh-0HVcgGfbG-bXA2

The FlutistThe Flutist

Chen Yifei, The Flutist, Offset Lithograph, Dimensions: 69.5 x 69.5 cm. (27.4 x 27.4 in.), 1987. Source: http://www.artnet.com/artists/chen-yifei/the-flutistthe-flutist-Gg00GSjS9MnWCl48qZ9ChQ2

Works cited:

“Chen Yifei.” Chen Yifei Biography – Chen Yifei on artnet. Accessed May 8, 2020. http://www.artnet.com/artists/chen-yifei/biography.

“The Flutist – Chen Yifei – Google Arts & Culture.” Google. Google. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-flutist-chen-yifei/JgHtUATxu6SBqg.



How Installations and Large Scale Art Inspire Viewer Reactions

Most of Cai’s art is large scale installations or series. This includes works I’ve written about before including the Mushroom Clouds photo series (Tufnell 2012) and the Fireflies Installation of light up petty cabs (“Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies.”). These two are only the beginning of Cai’s wide portfolio of large pieces of art. Cai uses his art to make a point, get a message across, or inspire a certain emotion in the viewers. Can uses unique mediums such as gun powder and fire that really catch the views attention and can inspire fear and sadness as they did in his mushroom cloud series, or inspire wonder as they did at an opening he conducted that ended in the fire department being called as viewers watched on amazed (“Playing with fire.” ). He has also had installations meant to bring joy and disgust, showing the wide range of emotions he has been able to inspire through art. Furthermore, Cai tends to have a message with his art, he uses it to make a point. He once took a stance against pollution with an installation that grotesquely showed the effect it has on animals (“China’s Pollution Crisis Inspires an Unsettling Art Exhibit”). This is what I think relates him back to a lot of the art we have studied so far in class: it all had a larger meaning, it was being used to make a point. Like the Woodblocks that represented the Communist Party and what they stood for or the paintings of Mao depicting him as one of the people to inspire trust.

Cai draws on the influence of these artists who work to make a point and inspire thought through large scale installation pieces. This paper will examine that. It will look at how Cai creates his work with the audience’s emotional reaction in mind and how the lifelike style and interactiveness of Cai’s different works can help to intensify the emotional response of the viewers.

China’s Pollution Crisis Inspires an Unsettling Art Exhibit 2014. Washington, D.C.: NPR. https://search.proquest.com/docview/2149163363?accountid=14637.

“Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies.” Association for Public Art., accessed May 8, 2020, https://www.associationforpublicart.org/project/cai-guo-qiang-fireflies/

Ben Tufnell, ‘Atomic Tourism and False Memories: Cai Guo-Qiang’s The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Art & Environment’, in Tate Papers, no.17, Spring 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/17/atomic-tourism-and-false-memories-cai-guo-qiangs-the-century-with-mushroom-clouds, accessed 8 May 2020.

“Playing with fire.” Economist, April 5, 2003, 94. The Economist Historical Archive, 1843-2015 (accessed May 8, 2020). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/GP4100336459/ECON?u=nysl_ca_unionc&sid=ECON&xid=b6bb28dd

Feng’s digital world

In our current world a pandemic has changed the way we live our daily lives. The way we interact with people has already changed drastically, but in reality we were ready for the challenges regarding communication. Technology has become very advanced and in light of this global pandemic, communicating with one another through a computer screen is the safest option. The digital world is one with endless possibilities. The theme of this exhibition falls perfectly into our current situation as it revolves around the digital world. The inspiration of this exhibition is Chinese Artist Feng Mengbo.

Feng Mengbo is an artist’s whose work provides a good example of how art coming from Chinese artist after 1990 and since has been influenced by the political happenings of the time. This exhibition will simply be a virtual presentation of works with voice recordings providing further information. In an effort to demonstrate how Feng Mengbo’s art style and content was very different than traditional work of the time, and also how historical events affected art differently, we must look at what would be considered a traditional piece of Chinese art work from a bit before Feng Mengbo’s artistic blow up.

If we look at a work from 1978 titled Scar Art, done by li Xinhua, and compare it to Feng Mengbo’s Long March: Restart, done in 2008, many differenes can be seen. Below is Scar art,


This piece was done on gouache on paper. The piece tells a sad story of the Cultural Revolution, as you can see the portrayal of the same soldier on the left is very sad and defeated on the right side of the painting. The artwork showed the actual emotion and tragedy that the people going through had to endure. The picture below is now an installation from one of Feng Mengbos pieces,



As seen, this is a very different piece. Mengbo made digital pieces of work and created video games. This one in specific uses Red Army soldiers as characters in the game. So, in comparison to Scar Art, this piece is less emotional and only uses the events from the Cultural Revolution to give a viewer a different but also historical experience.



Professor Lullo’s Voicethread presentation. https://voicethread.com/myvoice/thread/14412178/89311123/82174989



Mengbo, Feng. “Feng Mengbo. Long March: Restart. 2008: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.moma.org/collection/works/122872.

What is Normal? Chen Danqing’s Application of Native Soil Art in the Tibetan Autonomous Region

Chen Danqing first left the comfort of the Shanghai metropolis at the ripe age of 17 as a result of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution policy to expose the revolutionary youth to the struggle and toil of the Chinese countryside.  This was a formative and integral part of Chen’s youth as he, along with tens of millions of other metropolitan youth, was forced into an unrecognizable and uncomfortable new environment.  Upon the closure of the Cultural Revolution in the late ‘70s, Chen cultivated a passion for Native Soil Art, influenced by French realist Jean-Francois Millet.  He sought to employ Native Soil styles to depict the harsh realities of the lives of China’s ethnic minorities, particularly those living in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Chen has published numerous paintings on the lives and traditions of the nomadic peoples living in the Tibetan region; their ways of living, cultural nuances, traditional beliefs and practices, occupations, and more.  Thus, this exhibition will focus on the meaning behind Chen’s into Tibetan culture and the objective of Chen’s portrayal of Tibetan culture through his unique Native Soil techniques.  Typical in Native Soil Art, realism is stressed in the portrayal of personal expressions, landscapes, and objects portrayed in the image, often an earthy, almost ominous coloring.  Native Soil techniques, fully opposed to the techniques employed during the Cultural Revolution, help popularize a burgeoning realist faction in Chinese art circles in the 1970s and ‘80s.  These groups sought to identify the struggles and successes of the Chinese people through harsh, realist portrayals rather than glorified, optimistic socialist-realist styles.  Not only does Chen seek to demarcate the normalcy and uniqueness of the average Tibetan’s life, but he also aims to depict the tangible nature of Tibet and its peoples, often considered an exotic and faraway region to most living on China’s east coast.

In Chinese mainstream media, those living in Tibet are often subjected to labels such as anti-Beijing, subversive peoples who seek to liberate themselves from the rule of the CCP.  However, employing techniques typical of Native Soil Art, Chen depicts Tibetan people for who they really are; he highlights their longstanding cultural and religious practices, the intimacy of family and interpersonal relationships, and most importantly, the negligible differences between them and the majority Han population.

Harvest Fields Flooded by Tears, 1976

Chen Danqing (b.1953), Harvest Fields Flooded by Tears, 1976. Oil on canvas, 120 x 200 cm. Image source: artnet.com

Depicting the toil and struggle of the Tibetan peoples in their primarily agricultural and nomadic lifestyles, Chen delineates a clear message: Those living in Tibet are remarkably similar to those living in Wuhan, Beijing, and Shanghai.  While their garb, physical appearances, and spiritual beliefs may differ from their Han compatriots, their identity as Chinese and life experiences indeed draws similarities and connections with the rest of the Greater China population.



Galimberti, Jacopo, Noemi de Haro García, and Victoria H. F. Scott. Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Manchester University Press, 2019. muse.jhu.edu/book/71777.

Kao, Arthur Mu-sen. The Dormant Volcano of Art in China: New Art Policy and Art Movement. Journal of Developing Societies, 74-90, 1994. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1307823101?accountid=14637.