The Writer's Art: Tao Yuanqing and the Formation of Modern Chinese Design (1900-1930)

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The Writer's Art: Tao Yuanqing and the Formation of Modern Chinese Design (1900-1930)

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Title: The Writer's Art: Tao Yuanqing and the Formation of Modern Chinese Design (1900-1930)
Author: Ren, Wei
Citation: Ren, Wei. 2015. The Writer's Art: Tao Yuanqing and the Formation of Modern Chinese Design (1900-1930). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: The dissertation examines the history of modern design in early 20th-century China. The emergent field of design looked to replace the specific cultural and historical references of visual art with an international language of geometry and abstraction. However, design practices also, encouraged extracting culturally unique visual forms by looking inward at a nation’s constructed past. The challenge of uniting these dual, and seemingly contradictory, goals was met in a collaborative book cover design project between Lu Xun (1881-1936), China’s most influential modern writer, and Tao Yuanqing (1893-1929), a painter who transformed ancient motifs into a transnational vocabulary of modern design.

As the title suggests, the dissertation provides a history of modern Chinese design in four chapters, with the Lu Xun-Tao Yuanqing collaboration at its core. The investigation begins with the moment of culmination, wherein Lu Xun and Tao Yuanqing’s intersubjective dynamic allowed for evocative yet inscrutable book cover designs to be created. In the new medium of design, the writer’s anxiety regarding the inadequacy of language converged with the artist’s desire for ambiguity in art. The critical analysis then moves back to earlier instances of design and examines how the history of design in China was inflected by the World Exposition, Japan, art education, and commercial art. The inquiry finally moves forward to the discussion of Tao Yuanqing’s art and design’s relationship with a range of discursive fields in aesthetics and literary criticism, including modern notions of beauty, childlikeness, empathy, the native soil movement, cosmopolitanism, symbolism, and ambiguity in art. This part reveals how Tao Yuanqing’s innovations ironically endorsed while simultaneously subverting contemporary interpretive efforts.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17465116
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