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What is Chinese painting? When did it begin? And what are the different associations of this term in China and the West? In Chinese Painting and Its Audiences, which is based on the A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts given at the National Gallery of Art, leading art historian Craig Clunas draws from a wealth of artistic masterpieces and lesser-known pictures, some of them discussed here in English for the first time, to show how Chinese painting has been understood by a range of audiences over five centuries, from the Ming Dynasty to today. Richly illustrated, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences demonstrates that viewers in China and beyond have irrevocably shaped this great artistic tradition.
Arguing that audiences within China were crucially important to the evolution of Chinese painting, Clunas considers how Chinese artists have imagined the reception of their own work. By examining paintings that depict people looking at paintings, he introduces readers to ideal types of viewers: the scholar, the gentleman, the merchant, the nation, and the people. In discussing the changing audiences for Chinese art, Clunas emphasizes that the diversity and quantity of images in Chinese culture make it impossible to generalize definitively about what constitutes Chinese painting.
Exploring the complex relationships between works of art and those who look at them, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences sheds new light on how the concept of Chinese painting has been formed and reformed over hundreds of years.