Traditionalism, Transnationalism, and Modernism in Fu Baoshi’s 1943 Paintings of the Red Cliff

  • Author / Creator
    Li, Lin
  • This thesis examines two paintings on the subject of the Red Cliff boat trip (Chibi zhouyou) both made in 1943 by the modern Chinese ink painter, Fu Baoshi (1904-1965). In the history of Chinese painting, the Red Cliff is an unfading memorial in the collective memory of Chinese literati, and was a common subject rendered by painters in different times. However, Fu’s Red Cliff paintings render a new image of the Red Cliff that differs dramatically from Red Cliff paintings created by pre-modern Chinese painters, and the two Red Cliff paintings made by Fu in the same year also differ a lot from each other in style and compositional mode. In chapter 1, I will discover the ambiguity and flexibility of the Red Cliff as a subject of painting throughout history, which allows painters including Fu Baoshi to create their own imagery of the Red Cliff for certain needs. This section discovers “the Red Cliff” in the world of painting and literature throughout history with visual and documentary materials and will introduce Fu’s two 1943 Red Cliff paintings with visual analysis. Chapter 2 will uncover the possible point of origin of Fu Baoshi’s images of the Red Cliff paintings, the modern Japanese art world, which served Fu as a source of motifs, painting techniques, and compositional modes and also inspired him to depict Chinese historical figures and stories as modern fantasies of the past. This section will elaborate on the unavoidably international character of Fu Baoshi’s art, examines visual evidence and will portray a bidirectional interest between modern China and Japan that enabled painters like Fu Baoshi to benefit from this trend of artistic and cultural exchanges. Chapter 3 will discover the intention and motivations of Fu’s making of the 1943 Red Cliff paintings, considering the political environment of Chongqing in the 1940s and Fu’s interpersonal relationship with the writer Guo Moruo (1892-1978). Meanwhile, this section will also examine the dilemma and challenge that modern Chinese ink painters had to face, especially in the 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
    This thesis contributes to a more complete and complex image of the modern Chinese painter Fu Baoshi. Fu enjoys an unchallengeable position as a nationally important artist in mainland China, and Chinese researchers tend to ignore Fu’s embracing of foreign elements in his art. More importantly, through the case of Fu Baoshi, whose artistic life reflects the development of guohua in twentieth-century China, this thesis also examines the contradictory character of guohua as a modern invention and as an unapproachable ideal, for its concepts and content always contradict each other.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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