New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World

Chinese Women Artists’ Global Presence, 1900-1937

Doris Sung

Pan Yuliang, Portrait, from Hrag Vartanian blog.

This paper examines the art practices of Chinese women artists in the early twentieth century, a period in which notions of virtue, talent and women’s rights were drastically changed and redefined in Chinese society. While women started to step out of the confines of the inner quarters and express their artistic talents through various channels in the Chinese art world, they also gained opportunities to showcase their works in western art world centers. Some of the women artists discussed in this paper, who mainly worked in traditional Chinese painting medium, such as Wu Xingfen and Jin Taotao, were chosen to represent China in international expositions as part of the state-building effort of the newly established Republican government to present Chinese cultural heritage to the world. While others, like Pan Yuliang and Fang Junbi, who took up western-style painting as their mode of expression, managed to exhibit their works in prestigious art venues such as the Paris Salon and were featured in Paris-based art magazines. A close reading of how these women’s works were received and consumed reveals how notions of Chinese art, womanhood and nationhood were read and constituted in the local and international art worlds in the early twentieth century.