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Origins of the Chinese Avant-Garde

The Modern Woodcut Movement

Xiaobing Tang (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 318 pages
ISBN: 9780520249097
November 2007
$85.00, £71.00
In Origins of the Chinese Avant-Garde, Xiaobing Tang studies the art and art theories of the first half of the twentieth century, when modern Chinese art and literature emerged. He argues that the most consequential expression of the avant-garde was the modern woodcut movement that thrived in China in the 1930s. In this innovative study—also the first comprehensive account of this Chinese movement available in English—Tang examines the aesthetic, intellectual, and social appeal of the modern woodcut and places the movement at the intersection of historical events, individual efforts, and competing discourses on art. He also shows how the woodcut movement drew upon international inspiration—from German Expressionism, Soviet wood engravings, and Japanese creative prints.

1 The Beautiful Object of Art
For an Aesthetic Education
Echoes of a New Calling
In Pursuit of an Art Movement
2 Art Theory as Passionate Discourse on Subjectivity
The Expressionist Imperative
In the Whirlpool of Revolution
To Represent an Epoch
3 The New Art Movement and Its Field of Vision
An Aesthetic of Vigor
Art and Its Discontent
Seeing in Black and White
4 The Making of the Avant-Garde
From the Ashes of the First Shanghai War
1933: Hangzhou and Beiping
A Visual Esperanto
5 The Avant-Garde and the National Imaginary
For a Public Art of the Nation
Guangzhou as Epicenter
Farewell, Shanghai

Conclusion: The Origins of Roar, China! On Vision and Voice in Modern Chinese Art
Select Bibliography
Xiaobing Tang is Professor of Chinese at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Chinese Modern: The Heroic and the Quotidian (2000) and Global Space and the National Discourse of Modernity: The Historical Thinking of Liang Qichao (1996).
Xiaobing Tang's Origins of the Chinese Avant-Garde is much more than its title implies, for it is both a vivid account of the conflict between Chinese artistic conservatism, freedom of expression, and political commitment in the 1920s and 1930s and a deeply researched study of the origins and development of the woodcut movement. The author ranges widely over the controversial writings of this hectic period, showing how intimately art, literature, criticism, and politics were intertwined, but gives due prominence to such key figures as Cai Yuanpei and Lu Xun. This book will attract many readers for the vigor and lucidity of Tang's style and will become an essential source for anyone concerned with the cultural history of this turbulent era.—Michael Sullivan, author of Modern Chinese Artists: A Biographical Dictionary

Origins of the Chinese Avant-Garde is a genuine masterpiece of scholarship, an impressively documented cultural history of the Republican period. In five substantial chapters written in highly lucid and eloquent prose, Xiaobing Tang reconstructs, in detail, the art world of the Republican era, with all its different styles, organisations, institutions, and individuals, and provides cross-references to contemporaneous events in other fields, especially literature. Presenting the emergence of the woodblock printing movement in the context of other art movements, traditionalist and modernist, this book offers an art history of the period more comprehensive than any other, in Chinese or in English.—Michel Hockx, Professor of Chinese, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

"This is one of the first books in English to connect the literature and the fine arts of the early twentieth century. The author follows Lu Xun, one of the leading proponents of the revival of woodblock printmaking in early republican China, as the central thread in a narrative examining the intersections of art education, visual art, literature, and the cinema. Drawing on a wide variety of published materials, Tang successfully puts avant-garde work of the 1930s into a much broader cultural perspective."—Kuiyi Shen, author of A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China

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