CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


ZHANG Changhong
中西艺术的“高处相逢” ——对吴冠中石涛解读的再思考

Session 15 Creative Misunderstanding

Department of History, College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University


In his late years, Wu Guanzhong published a book entitled My Interpretation of Shi Tao’s art theory (1996). In the preface he said, “I regard Shi Tao as father of modern Chinese art, and he made breakthroughs in art two centuries earlier than Paul Cezanne did in the West.” When encountered at the peak with each other, Chinese art and Western art would “shake hands, and wish they had met each other earlier because they felt they belonged to the same family. In Shi Tao’s painting, one can find almost all of the ideals that modern Western art later pursued.” Although Liu Haisu discussed modern meaning in Shi tao’s works in his Shi Tao and the post-impressionism in early 20th century, Wu Guanzhong’s views on Shi Tao and modern art were much more radical. It seems that Liu and Wu faced the similar social context, when they both saw culture exchanges between Chinese and Western countries were not done on equal basis and felt the urgency to catch up with Western culture as soon as possible. So they broke the limit of time and space, comparing Shi Tao and modern Western painters with erroneous theoretical approaches. In other words, they borrowed and appropriated some western ideas in a biased manner and even deliberately misread them. The present-day reader can see in their writing the anxiety and rush mentality to catch up with the avant-garde and even surpass it due to the pressure from the superior western cultures. Wu Guanzhong was a student of Lin Fengmian and lived through modern art era in the National Academy of Fine Arts during the 1930s. As a result, his interpretation of Shi Tao, on the one hand, means looking back in history and, on the other hand, means being influenced by trendy thoughts of the 1990s. However, by reconstructing Shi Tao’s art,contemporary Chinese artists may be able to relocate contemporary Chinese art and its further development.



Professor of Department of Art History,

College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Research field: Chinese art history