Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History
This paper examines the relationship between tradition and modernity in nineteenth-century Shanghai through the work of painter Xugu (1823-1896). Xugu's unique interpretations of time-honored subjects creates the sense that his references to tradition are not a mere continuation of China's artistic past. These artistic conventions are altered to reflect the complex changes and new directions facing artists who for the first time were confronted with an urban environment, commercial culture, and rapid cross-cultural exchange. Analysis of Xugu's paintings suggest he was not clinging to the past to preserve his cultural heritage, but was a conscious participant in the shifts that took place in urban China at the end of the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911). This paper employs formal analysis of selected works of art and places them within the historic and cultural context of nineteenth-century Shanghai, in order to demonstrate the importance of Xugu to the development of Chinese modernism.