Until recently, modern Chinese art attracted little scholarly attention, either in China or in the West. Western art historians might occasionally glance at the more traditional kinds of painting in the twentieth century, but their serious publications were on the great periods of Chinese art, Ming or before. The contemporary China-watchers—social scientists and modern period historians—trained their gaze on the harder stuff of politics and economics, ideology and organization. In the United States and the West in general, art seemed to slip through the crack between ACLS- and SSRC-funded research projects. In China, anything on the twentieth century, even art, was too sensitive politically for safe handling. The result was that throughout the Maoist years modern Chinese art could occasionally pique the interest of collectors or dealers outside China or draw carefully calculated praise from critics and publicists within, but it was not a promising area for critical scholarship. Michael Sullivan's pioneering survey, Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century, London and Berkeley, 1959—strong on developments in the later Guomindang period when he was in China, but understandably rather out of touch with the main currents in the People's Republic—remained for almost thirty years the sole monument in a neglected field.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.