The Republican China was a time full of conflicts between traditional cultural values and new Western ideas and materials. In Shanghai, because of the blooming economy, modernity fast developed in many aspects of people's life. Among these aspects, post calendars, photography and western oil paintings in cultural and entertainment areas all permeated people's life....[ Read more ]
The Republican China was a time full of conflicts between traditional cultural values and new Western ideas and materials. In Shanghai, because of the blooming economy, modernity fast developed in many aspects of people's life. Among these aspects, post calendars, photography and western oil paintings in cultural and entertainment areas all permeated people's life.
Such is the historical background of this thesis. In the field of traditional Chinese painting, the conflicts between traditional Chinese and western cultures gave rise to widespread debates on traditional Chinese painting and western painting among the artists. In Shanghai, the major economic and cultural city of China, the debate was relatively more moderate, and there was more room for artistic creation than in Beijing. But for many traditional Shanghai artists, the main problem they have to solve was how to make a living by selling their works in the competitive art market.
The problem was even more complicated for traditional female figure painters. Under the influence of Confucian thoughts and traditional art criticism, the ways to present female figures had been strictly confined. When commercial visual representations featuring female figures came out in large quantities and gain popularity among people, the situation of traditional female figure painters became increasingly more difficult. In order to make a living by selling their works, the traditional female figure painters have to think about many problems, such as to what extent they should follow the tradition art, how to enter the art market, how to attract more customers to buy their works. As evidenced by the extant works, a few artists were able to achieve high level of artistic quality. The majority remained commonplace and had not surpassed the Ming and Qing artists. Therefore, the development of traditional female figure painting in Shanghai in Republican China was a process of struggling - the artists had to make their choice between the Ming and Qing orthodoxy and the material temptation in a commercial market.
Until now, this topic has not attracted much scholarly attention. This thesis traces the history of traditional female figure paintings and explores the artistic conflicts of the traditional female figure painters in Shanghai in Republican China. Chapter One sketches the historical background of the development of the traditional female figure paintings. Chapter Two introduces the different schools of female figure paintings and their developments in three stages. Chapter Three consists of five case studies individual female figure painters. Chapter Four re-examines the paintings and artists in a cultural observation context. Chapter Five is a conclusion of the thesis.