Chinese Landscape Painting as Western Art History by James Elkins

51KuNmW2XDL._SY291_BO1204203200_QL40_.jpg Author James Elkins
Isbn 9789622090002
File size 4.7MB
Year 2010
Pages 208
Language English
File format PDF
Category art


James Elkins With a Foreword by Jennifer Purtle Hong Kong University Press 14/F Hing Wai Centre 7 Tin Wan Praya Road Aberdeen Hong Kong © Hong Kong University Press 2010 ISBN 978-962-209-000-2 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Secure On-line Ordering British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Printed and bound by Kings Time Printing Press Ltd., Hong Kong, China Contents List of Plates vii Foreword: “Whose Hobbyhorse?” by Jennifer Purtle Preface xxi Abbreviations xxv 1 Iterated Introductions I A Brace of Comparisons II Tying Some Laces III The Argument 13 49 67 IV The Endgame, and the Qing Eclipse V Postscripts Notes 147 Index 175 133 99 ix List of Plates A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Zhang Hongtu, Shitao–Van Gogh. 1998. x Shitao, Landscape from An Album for Daoist Yu. Album leaf, ink and color on x paper. C.C. Wang Collection, New York. Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night. 1889. xi Top: Vincent Van Gogh, View of Arles. Museum of Art, Rhode Islands School 25 of Design, Providence, RI. Bottom: Shen Zhou, Scenes at Tiger Hill, Oak and Hummocks with Three Figures at a Wall. Cleveland Museum of Art. Zhao Mengfu, Autumn Colors in the Qiao [Que] and Hua Mountains, detail. 26–27 Handscroll, 28.4 x 93.2 cm. Taipei, National Palace Museum. Left: Michelangelo, Study for the Libyan Sybil. New York, Metropolitan 29 Museum of Art. Right: Copy after Wu Tao-tzu, Flying Devil. 8th c. Hopei Province, Chü Yang. As reproduced in Benjamin Rowland, Art in East and West, plates 7 and 8. Top: John Marin, Maine Islands. Washington, Phillips Gallery. Bottom: Ying 32 Yujian, attr., Mountain Village in Clearing Mist, one of the Eight Views of Hsiao and Hsiang. Handscroll. Tokyo, Matsudaira Collection. As reproduced in Benjamin Rowland, Art in East and West, plates 41 and 42. Left: Matthias Grünewald, The Temptation of St. Anthony, detail. c. 1510. 33 Germany, Colmar. Right: Li Cheng, Reading the Tablet. Sumiyoshi, Abe Collection. As reproduced in Benjamin Rowland, Art in East and West, plates 31 and 32. Left: Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men in Contemplation of the Moon. 34 Formerly Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Right: Ma Yuan, Sage Contemplating the Moon. Toyko, Kuroda Collection. As reproduced in Benjamin Rowland, Art in East and West, plates 37 and 38. Guo Xi, Early Spring. 1072. Hanging scroll, 158.3 x 108.1 cm. Taipei, 73 National Palace Museum. viii List of Plates 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Li Cheng, attr., [Temple Amid Snowy Peaks], detail. Boston, Museum of Fine 74 Arts. Ma Yuan, Landscape with Willow and Bridge. Album leaf in fan shape, 24 x 76 24 cm. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts. Zhao Mengfu, attr., Orchid Flowers, Bamboo, and Rocks, detail. 1302. 77 Shanghai Museum of Art. Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, detail. Taipei, Palace 80 Museum. Ni Zan, The Jung-hsi Studio. 1372. Hanging scroll, 74.7 x 35.5 cm. Taipei, 81 National Palace Museum. Wang Meng, The Forest Grotto at Chü-ch’ü. Hanging scroll, 68.7 x 42.5 cm. 81 Taipei, National Palace Museum. Wen Zhengming, Cypress and Old Rock. 1550. Handscroll on mulberry bark 85 paper, 10 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Gallery. Dong Qichang, Landscape after Lu Hong’s “Ten Views of a Thatched Hut.” 89 1621–1624. Album leaf, ink and color on paper. Image: 56.2 x 36.2 cm. Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Gallery. Wang Hui, Pictorial Representation of the Poem by Yuweng, detail. 1686. 95 Shanghai Museum of Art. Wang Shimin, Cloud Capped Mountains and Mists, Riverside, detail. 1658. 96 Shanghai Museum of Art. Dong Qichang, Mountains in Autumn, detail. Shanghai Museum of Art. 100 Qian Du, The Bamboo Pavilion at Huang-Kang. Cleveland Museum of Art. 104–5 Dai Xi, Endless Range of Mountains with Dense Forest, detail. 1859. Shanghai 106 Museum of Art. Fu Baoshi, Resting by the Deep Valley, detail. 1943. Shanghai Museum of 109 Art. Yun Shouping, Album Leaf (one of five), detail. Shanghai Museum of Art. 112 Zha Shibiao, Searching for Secluded Scenery, detail. Nanjing, Cao Tian 119 Palace. Gong Xian, Eight Views of Landscape, detail. 1684. Shanghai Museum of 120 Art. Bada Shanren, Fish and Ducks, detail. 1689. Shanghai Museum of Art. 121 Shitao, Gathering in the Western Garden, detail. Shanghai Museum of Art. 123 Foreword: Whose Hobbyhorse? by Jennifer Purtle I read the manuscript for this book expecting to hate it. Rumors about the manuscript bemoaned a non-specialist author who presumed to tell specialists in the field of Chinese painting history working to recover traditional Chinese ideas about painting that and how they practiced Western art history. Moreover, the author allegedly did so in terms not interesting to many specialists in the field of Chinese painting history, nor fully intelligible to some. To propose the Westernness of the practice of art history in the field of Chinese painting history—which has, since the middle of the twentieth century, sought means (including rigorous sinology) to recover traditional Chinese ideas about painting—might be construed by some as proposing the failure of that enterprise. For some, the manuscript thus proposed the fundamental impossibility of thinking about Chinese landscape painting history in its own terms. What does it mean to consider the history of the art of non-Western cultures in their own terms, especially when those cultures, despite the presence of sophisticated, indigenous strategies for thinking and writing about images and things—and/or art—lack an enterprise approximate to the Western discipline of art history? Can such a project be undertaken within the discipline of art history? Is such a project better suited to anthropological approaches to art, even though the question of what constitutes “art” outside the Western tradition remains difficult to define? Or, does such a project, even as it closes the distance between nonWestern art and the Western scholar or viewer, necessarily transpose the object of inquiry into Western epistemological frameworks and strategies of academic inquiry, thus leaving an uncrossable, irreducible gap between the non-Western object and the Western practice of art history? Universal art histories and world art, both firmly grounded in Western practices of art history (and often in the nomenclature of the nation-state), impose the epistemological limitations of their creators and practitioners on the objects of their study. Objects, moving within and beyond the conceptual borders of art history, problematize both the entry of  Foreword objects into art historical discourse and the reception of these objects in that discourse. As a result, the movement of things from one culture into the discursive fields of another is as an object lesson in cross-cultural hermeneutics. When the things are Chinese landscape paintings and the discursive field is Western art history, this object lesson reveals that the study of the history of Chinese landscape painting is defined by epistemological structures and hermeneutic practices entirely alien to it. It is precisely this point that Elkins makes in this controversial text. Loading the Deck That the history of Chinese landscape painting might be defined by epistemological structures and hermeneutic practices entirely alien to it is not limited to the historiography of Chinese landscape painting studies. In a series of paintings called Repaint Chinese Shan Shui Painting—some of which were shown in Shuffling the Deck (an exhibition in the Princeton University Art Museum in 2003 that “explored the dialogue between contemporary thought and artistic practice”)1 —the Beijing-born, New York–based artist Zhang Hongtu (b. 1943) made Chinese landscape painting Western art history. Zhang Hongtu did this by repainting the compositions of famous masterpieces of Chinese painting in the style of Western Fig. A: Zhang Hongtu, Shitao–Van Gogh. 1998. Fig. B: Shitao, Landscape from An Album for Daoist Yu. Album leaf, ink and color on paper. C.C. Wang Collection, New York. Foreword Fig. C: Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night. 1889. nineteenth-century masters. In a work from this series, Shitao–Van Gogh of 1998 (fig. A), Zhang takes a famous composition, Landscape from An Album for Daoist Yu (fig. B) by one of the most famous Chinese landscape painters, Shitao (1642–1707), and repaints it in the style of Vincent Van Gogh’s (1853–1890) The Starry Night of 1889 (fig. C). To the viewer who knows both traditions, Zhang’s Shitao–Van Gogh, like the remainder of paintings in this series, is wry and funny, the improbable meeting of two great masterpieces. In reprising a famous composition by Shitao, an egoistic painter who rejected prescriptions for painting in the style of Chinese Old Masters, Zhang Hongtu’s hybrid playfully makes Shitao the proleptic progenitor of Van Gogh.2 But Shitao–Van Gogh, like the other paintings in Zhang’s series, is a pointed meeting of Chinese landscape painting with Western art history, one with disturbing implications for historians of Chinese art: viewers unfamiliar with Chinese landscape painting see Shitao–Van Gogh as Van Gogh. When viewers who do not know Chinese landscape painting fail to recognize the Shitao composition, they render it invisible, eliding the status and influence of a masterpiece of Chinese landscape painting. Such viewers thus blithely assimilate one of the single most iconic compositions of Chinese xi xii Foreword landscape painting into Western art history, shuffling the deck—or rather loading it—in favor of Western art historical outcomes.3 Just as Zhang Hongtu’s Repaint Chinese Shan Shui Painting shows how easily Chinese landscape painting can become Western art history, in Chinese Landscape Painting as Western Art History, James Elkins proposes six hypotheses that, based on Elkins’s sustained engagement with both Chinese and Western traditions, push his audience to consider how Chinese landscape painting is Western art history. The six hypotheses are a bracing call for art historians in all subfields, including but not limited to specialists in Chinese painting, to meditate on the conceptual framework and historical evolution of their discipline, and to consider these with respect to the practice of art history. Briefly summarized, these hypotheses: 1) propose the inherently Western nature of art history, and the place of Chinese landscape painting history as example or examples within Western art history, rather than as a co-equal of Western art history; 2) problematize comparison (entrenched in the discipline of art history), especially cross-cultural comparison; 3) advise that art history is so inherently a Western discipline that any history of Chinese landscape painting is a Western endeavor, even if written by a Chinese person in Chinese for a Chinese audience; 4) state that comparison of historical perspective (that is, a sense of relative position with respect to one’s own tradition) reveals assumptions about the nature of art history and its sequences, and shows affinities between Chinese and Western periods; 5) note that Chinese painting has an odd structure, exemplified by decline in the late Ming and derogatory, if not absent narratives of the Qing (a counter-hypothesis contends that late Ming and Qing artists appear to art history as a form of postmodernism); and 6) plead for sustained inquiry in considering art history as Western, aware that when inquiry into art objects transcends Western assumptions, it will no longer be recognizable as art history. Though rarely voiced, some scholars of Chinese art history know, from their own working practices and institutional situations, the substance of Elkins’s hypotheses—even as their colleagues in Western art history may never have considered the odd synthesis of Western discipline and its Chinese objects that preoccupy their colleagues. For some historians of Chinese art history, Elkins’s text is an affront because he, a non-specialist, presumes to tell specialists in the field what they already know; for others, the text is an affront because he tells them something they do not know.4 For still others, the affront comes from telling specialists that the history they have constructed for the tradition that they study fails to meet basic standards of plausibility for European language art historical scholarship, thus making that history an exceptional and unusual artifact of cross-cultural encounter that privileges Western art history even as it purports to understand Chinese landscape painting in its own terms. Still other specialists find the book irrelevant because it falls beyond the questions they ask, and constructs its narrative outside the range of texts that they use to consider the history of Chinese landscape painting. Foreword xiii Finally, some specialists take offense at the absence of Chinese scholarship in Elkins’s text. Here, the Westernness of Chinese painting history manifests itself twice over. First, Elkins does not read modern Chinese, so cannot read this literature; he is, in this way, the archetypal Western scholar of Chinese painting history. But second, were Elkins to read Chinese, and thus to more fully engage Chinese language scholarship of Chinese painting history, this encounter would only reinforce Elkins’s position: for, unlike its Western counterparts, Sinophone scholarship of Chinese painting, from all parts of the Sinophone world, has, until the 1990s, tended to focus more on describing connoisseurial and documentary detail than on crafting grand narratives informed by Western presuppositions about historical and art historical writing. This stems partly from the fact that it is only from the late 1990s that it has been possible to earn a PhD in Chinese art history in the PRC or Taiwan (and to write that thesis in Chinese), and also partly from the fact that Sinophone scholars trained in the West often write in Western languages, and from the vantage of the Western art historical tradition in which they were trained. Thus while Sinophone scholarship serves as a foundation of the field—few among us in the field of Chinese painting history could imagine working without the great connoisseurial contributions of Xu Bangda (b. 1911),5 for example, and without the ground-breaking documentary contributions of Chen Gaohua,6 Mu Yiqin,7 and many others—it is only recently, perhaps through a process that some might call the globalization of art history,8 that Sinophone scholarship has become imbricated, institutionally and intellectually, in the messy web of Western art history and its idiosyncratic expectations for Chinese landscape painting. In the past, Sinophone scholarship did not leave itself open to Elkins’s critique, thus reinforcing Elkins’s point about the Westernness of Chinese painting history. Specialists in the field may not be the sole or primary audience for this book. Indeed, the number of rejections the manuscript has received suggests that whoever has reviewed it does not see its worth, or a point in its publication. But if Chinese landscape painting, and Chinese art history more generally, are Western art history (not all will agree!), then perhaps it is interesting, and even beneficial, that Elkins’s hypotheses usefully explain, in the language of a theoretically- and historiographically-informed Western art history, the cross-cultural position of the field to larger art historical audiences. In an ideal world, I would hope that colleagues in Western art history would read the scholarship of colleagues in Chinese art history; but in a more instrumentalist world, I would hope that colleagues in Western art history would engage the idea of Chinese art history, even if it is this book—and not a work written by a specialist—that serves as their portal. The deck is already loaded in favor of Western art history; why not make that condition more transparent to those seeking to study Chinese landscape painting? xiv Foreword Speaking Art History Some of the funniest things I have read about Chinese art history I have read in the context of the unpublished manuscript on which this book is based. Among them is a rejection letter in which a reviewer of the manuscript writes that they are sure that Jim Elkins cannot understand Chinese painting history because he does not know Chinese. What makes the letter so funny is that its writer goes on to say that because of their own very vague (but presumed superior) familiarity with Chinese culture, including having once studied Chinese (but lacking any real, current facility in it), they know what Elkins can or cannot know about Chinese landscape painting. In a move reminiscent of Zhuangzi’s (fl. fourth century BC) “The Pleasure of Fish,”9 this reviewer, who admits that someone who does not know Dutch might write about Dutch painting, vehemently defends the position that someone who wants to write about Chinese landscape painting must know Chinese. The point that is missed is that Elkins does not want to write about “Chinese landscape painting,” but rather about the “history of Chinese landscape painting.” The language of Elkins’s primary sources is art history. The idea that a generalist or non-specialist—fluent in predominantly Anglophone, but also Europhone, art history—could shape perceptions of a non-Western field of art history, let alone that of Chinese landscape painting, troubles some, if not the majority, of scholars in the field of Chinese art history. But one must ask: what about the generalist or non-specialist is or should be offensive to specialist study? Of course a generalist or non-specialist might not be well equipped to study a non-Western tradition in which they have little to no language training. But using knowledge of the discipline to analyze the historiography of the subfield, might such a scholar add value to the larger debates within a non-Western subfield of art history? Formalist inquiry and Western-language secondary scholarship are two avenues through which a generalist or non-specialist can approach Chinese landscape painting. Formalist approaches to the history of art serve as a putatively universal approach to works of art, and thus putatively give equal access to works of art to any art historian trained to use them. The specialist presumably acquires greater facility in the formal analysis of the type of work they study. But the non-specialist might also, over time, acquire similar facility—or perhaps even greater facility than some specialists whose arguments rest largely on textual sources rather than on the study of the object. This book is brilliant, except for the places where it is dead wrong in the ways that an outsider is wrong because they do not know Chinese and thus cannot read beyond the secondary scholarship. Lacking language skills in modern and classical Chinese, a nonspecialist is forced to read the secondary literature of the field. Given their linguistic limitations, non-specialists—and I think this is true of Elkins—read the European-language Foreword secondary literature more carefully than specialists, who see such literature as bringing concepts and ideas that they know from primary sources into focus in European languages. In other words, specialists read the secondary literature of the field in dialogue with, and as indexical of, primary sources. In contrast, non-specialists readers read the secondary literature in its own terms—as art history—and hold that literature to a standard that might be accepted in any subfield of art history. Just as Elkins posits that Chinese landscape painting is Western art history, Elkins reads the secondary scholarship of Chinese landscape painting as Western art history. Based on twentieth-century secondary literature of the field, Elkins argues, in his third chapter, that it is during the Yuan Dynasty that “a sense of the shape of the past” takes form, that the period functions as a renascence and as Renaissance. This analogy of painting of the Yuan Dynasty to that of the Renaissance, coupled with narratives of painting of the late Ming and later periods that suggest the end of art and its history, to borrow a concept from Hans Belting (b. 1935), suggest a profoundly different sense of history than that constructed in narratives of Western art; while Belting sees the history of art end with contemporary art, Elkins aptly notes that the history of Chinese landscape painting once ended after the late Ming, circa 1644.10 What interests Elkins here might be called, to borrow a phrase from George Kubler (1912–1996), the shape of time.11 Yet Elkins’s interest lies not in temporaneity and artifacts in the abstract, as was the case for Kubler, but lies instead in the way in which art historical narrative is constructed for Chinese landscape painting, a narrative that sketches swaths of time simultaneous to those described in art historical narratives of Western art, but a narrative that does not conform to a Western sense of an archetypal shape of the past. Elkins not only analyzes the ways that other scholars have written Chinese landscape painting as Western art history, but he intentionally writes Chinese landscape painting as Western art history. Citing Georg Hegel’s (1770–1831) philosophy of history, specifically Hegel’s sense of the awareness of the subject and his perception of history, for example, Elkins positions Yuan Dynasty landscape painting as a parallel to the Italian Renaissance. The move is one that some historians of Chinese art have made. In Beyond Representation, Wen Fong makes exactly this point, as do others in a variety of texts Elkins cites.12 When scholars of Chinese landscape painting have made this point, they have looked to the Chinese tradition, not to Western philosophy, to justify their point. Yet, is it not possible that a single phenomenon might be analyzed both with conceptual paradigms current within a cultural system,13 and by those outside it? Might it not be productive—and provocative—to understand how any number of interpretive frameworks illuminate an interesting problem? By positing, reading, and writing Chinese landscape painting as Western art history, Elkins identifies peculiarities of the secondary scholarship of Chinese landscape painting. In the third and fourth chapters of his text, Elkins questions the way in which Chinese landscape history has posited the Yuan Dynasty as a renascence, examining the narratives of artistic decline and absence of artistic production that were told, in the twentieth century, about the landscape painting of the late Ming and Qing Dynasties, and the void of scholarship xv xvi Foreword about Chinese art of the twentieth century. Whereas specialist scholars of Chinese landscape painting constructed and largely accepted this narrative in the twentieth century, they rarely probed its strangeness. While these narratives no longer have the same force that they did in 1991, when Why Chinese Landscape Painting Is Western Art History was written, it seems that it took an outsider reading secondary scholarship of Chinese landscape painting as art history to see—or at least to comment eloquently upon—the strangeness of the narrative that the field constructed for itself. While the field has changed in the nearly twenty years since Elkins first completed his text, the lesson that might be learned from the disjunction of his text with established narratives of Chinese landscape painting is that specialists, beguiled by the exceptionalism of a non-Western tradition putatively understood “in its own terms,” fail to recognize the implausibility of such narratives, or the historiographic factors that create them. In such moments, the perspective of the outsider, the non-specialist, can serve as an intervention into a literature that, despite the quality of its scholarship, fails to make adequate sense with respect to larger worlds of historical inquiry. In this book, Jim Elkins, who does not speak Chinese, speaks art history. This is perhaps why he does not make much sense to some historians of Chinese painting, who, as a group, are variably fluent in Western art history. By writing in the critical and theoretical language that circulates in the academy these days, Elkins provocatively recalibrates questions and problems in the writing of the history of Chinese landscape painting with larger questions across disciplines about humanistic inquiry and historical writing. By speaking art history, Elkins offers a historiography of Chinese landscape painting that may encourage wider and more fruitful engagement with Chinese landscape painting by specialists and nonspecialists alike. Points of Departure In speaking art history, Elkins’s text departs from the established reference points for writing the history of Chinese landscape painting. Rather than ground all arguments in the primary and secondary literature of the field, Elkins at times uses literature written by other nonspecialists who engage the history of Chinese painting as a starting point for his inquiry. Elkins also uses works of Western art history as a point of departure for his discussion of Chinese landscape painting and its history. More often than not, specialists in the history of Chinese landscape painting ignore non-specialists’ writings; at times they even deride specialists writing in more general ways. Thus when Elkins addresses Hubert Damisch’s (b. 1928) use, in his Traité du trait of 1995, of only Chinese examples in his first chapter “Pinceau” (brush)—following Pierre Ryckmans (b. 1935) commentary on Shitao’s Huayu Foreword xvii lu and revisiting Jacques Derrida in Of Grammatology (which he does elsewhere in the text)—he unpacks the intellectual context of the Traité, and shows how ideas about Chinese painting history, whether or not acceptable to specialist scholars, function in a wider intellectual context. The point that those who impugn Elkins’s text miss is that whether or not Damisch, Ryckmans, and Derrida corporately make a statement that specialist scholars might accept as being “true” of Chinese landscape painting, they nonetheless contribute an idea—and an influential one in art history—of what is at stake in Chinese paintings. What this manuscript does, then, is inscribe other non-specialist texts as potential points of departure for inquiry into Chinese landscape painting. To facilitate conversation, Elkins’s text also opens up the history of Chinese landscape painting to texts and ideas of Western art history that specialists in the field may not read or otherwise engage. Using works of Western art history to talk about Chinese landscape painting has been a staple of the writing of Chinese landscape painting history in the twentieth century. But Elkins positions those writings differently than would a specialist in Chinese painting, using them to leverage big ideas in ways different from the specialist. Elkins, for example, thinks through the case of the Bulgarian modernist Detchko Uzunov (1899–1986), makes references to classics of art history such as E.H. Gombrich’s (1909–2001) The Story of Art first published in 1950, uses Hegel to think about the abrasive nature of comparison and the self-awareness of the historian. In considering Western art historians who study only Western art, Elkins leads his reader to Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968), E.H. Gombrich, Meyer Schapiro (1904–1996), and Hans Belting, effectively forcing the reader interested in Chinese landscape painting to confront authors of foundational texts of art history that might be useful in terms of thinking through larger issues of the discipline. Similarly, Elkins leads his reader to confront more recent authors such as John Onians (b. 1942), Norman Bryson (b. 1949), and David Summers (b. 1941)—all Western art historians with sustained interests in non-Western topics. Many specialists in Chinese landscape painting know these texts. But rarely are we asked to think about them with respect to our own work, let alone in rapid-fire succession. Elkins’s book is thus a stimulating and provocative read for the specialist scholar, asking them to rethink their basic assumptions about art history and the relevance of its important texts to the history of Chinese landscape painting. Curiously, nearly a decade before the publication of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s influential book Provincializing Europe (2000), Elkins’s text provides a detailed, though some might say idiosyncratic, account of the ways in which Western art history serves as the framework for the study of Chinese landscape painting. Elkins’s hypotheses are hardly radical in light of recent work in postcolonial and critical area studies. Such studies make clear the implicit colonial and imperialist assumptions present in Western academic disciplines and area studies, namely, the formatting of knowledge in Western terms.14 Even though Elkins’s text might now seem dated or derivative, this is merely an artifact of not being able to get this manuscript published circa 1991. Strangely, in 1991 Chinese landscape painting could not serve as a point of departure for thinking about the implicitly colonial practices of art history xviii Foreword … and only now, when such practices have been revealed in their broadest senses in other disciplines, will the subfield acknowledge them. Whose Hobbyhorse? Who speaks for Chinese landscape painting? For whom might Chinese landscape painting serve as a hobbyhorse—perhaps not the narrowly iconological hobbyhorse of Gombrich that barely applies to Chinese landscape painting, but a larger, shape-shifting hobbyhorse, even a Chinese one, a zhuma—useful for considering any number of art historical questions? And why? The time has come for specialists to consider how the material that we study might be of interest to non-specialist or generalist art historians. Some historians of China have already made this leap: the Harvard China Historical GIS project seeks to make as much data as possible available in English so that social and economic historians not trained in Chinese might begin to analyze the wealth of Chinese data compiled in the project, and thus cast comparative light on the social and economic development of China.15 The approach of the Harvard CHGIS suggests that the intelligent non-specialist, knowledgeable of another subfield of the discipline, has something to offer the specialist in the subfield as well as the larger world of ideas. If historians of Chinese landscape painting and other forms of Chinese art embrace the position that the Harvard HCGIS promotes, this raises the stakes for those of us in the field about training non-specialists who, like Elkins, take our classes. Do we subsequently expect the non-specialist with some training and interest in our subfield to do nothing further with the knowledge they acquire? Is it simply the case that such courses were either a convenient way to fill a blank in a course schedule, or a means of fulfilling a distribution requirement? Or do we instead hope that the non-specialist/generalist will use their knowledge and considerable intelligence to forge useful ideas that illuminate the subfields on the basis of different knowledge bases? When a non-specialist takes Chinese landscape painting as their hobbyhorse, they might alternatively serve as an interlocutor between specialists, or between specialists in the subfield and specialists in other fields and/or generalists in the discipline. As an interlocutor, Elkins functions effectively. His text is illuminating, especially when it is right, but even when it is wrong. Moreover, specialists are likely not to agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong”; and, they would do well to remember that errors are not the sole province of the non-specialist, for even specialist authors get things wrong at times, things that peer review does not always catch. As an interlocutor, Elkins questions the narratives of the Foreword field established in the twentieth century, narratives that have lost their force with newer scholarship, but that have also not been revisited. While the field has moved on in terms of the shape of the past that it presents, no specialist has stepped in (or perhaps will step in, given the small size of the field and its need to keep moving forward rather than to look back) to write the history of these narratives, to expose their oddness. Elkins does work that no specialist will do any time soon; the interlocutor takes up a project that would otherwise remain undone. Specialists may not agree with the way Elkins connects the dots of secondary scholarship in his historiographic narrative. For, by speaking art history, Elkins’s text loads the deck in favor of new ideas about Chinese landscape painting. But rather than provide the final word on the subject, Elkins’s work becomes a point of departure, a text from which to open debate to any number of art historians for whom Chinese landscape painting might serve as a hobbyhorse. xix

Author James Elkins Isbn 9789622090002 File size 4.7MB Year 2010 Pages 208 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare This is a provocative essay of reflections on traditional mainstream scholarship on Chinese art as done by towering figures in the field such as James Cahill and Wen Fong. James Elkins offers an engaging and accessible survey of his personal journey encountering and interpreting Chinese art through Western scholars’ writings. He argues that the search for optimal comparisons is itself a modern, Western interest, and that art history as a discipline is inherently Western in several identifiable senses. Although he concentrates on art history in this book, and on Chinese painting in particular, these issues bear implications for Sinology in general, and for wider questions about humanistic inquiry and historical writing. –Jennifer Purtle’s Foreword provides a useful counterpoint from the perspective of a Chinese art specialist, anticipating and responding to other specialists’ likely reactions to Elkins’s hypotheses. This book is a stimulating read for the specialist and non-specialist alike, challenging them to reconsider their fundamental assumptions about art history and to rethink the art historical project in broader terms.–James Elkins teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago–“The issues which Elkins raises are . . . fascinating, thoughtful, and provocative. Only an ‘outsider’ to the field could raise them, and Elkins is perhaps the only outsider who could . . . . Exemplary.” – Jerome Silbergeld, Princeton University-     Download (4.7MB) Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline Concerning the Spiritual – and the Concrete – in Kandinsky’s Art Beauty in the City: The Ashcan School The Horizon Book Of The Arts Of Russia The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs Load more posts

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