Date of Award

Fall 2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Nancy Steinhardt

Second Advisor

Victor Mair

Third Advisor

Julie Davis

Abstract

This dissertation explores the life and art of Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715), one of the most influential literati artists of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As a representative of the so-called “Orthodox Painting School,” Wang considered himself the heir to the genuine thousand-year-old tradition of Chinese painting. Throughout his lifetime, he made every effort to establish and consolidate the authority of his school of painting. Since his early years, he had been trained as a traditional Chinese literatus. Under the direct supervision of his grandfather, he practiced landscape paintings in the style of ancient masters, especially that of the Yuan literati painter, Huang Gongwang (1269-1354). However, he was never satisfied with the facsimiles of the old masterpieces. Beyond his models, he created new theories of composition and brushwork; he introduced a new style of light color landscape with unique techniques. Moreover, benefiting from the lenient cultural policies of the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661-1722), he successfully led a movement of canon-formation in artistic circles.

The research of this thesis is based on three types of sources: 1) Wang Yuanqi’s published writings, 2) his paintings, and 3) publications and manuscripts by Wang’s contemporaries. Different from previous scholarship which mainly focuses on the classicism of Wang Yuanqi’s work, this dissertation provides a comprehensive study of Wang’s life and his circle and investigates the reason and procedure of the rise of the Orthodox Painting School in the early eighteenth century.

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