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The Shape Of Artistic Pasts: East And West

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Chapter Summary

In the Robert Ellsworth Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Chinese Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, there is an affecting work done by Wan Shang-Lin, who, as a landscape painter, is said (in the neutral prose of this collection's spectacular catalog) "to have been influenced by Ni Tsan&t;. The philosophical shape of art history in China differed so from that of art history in the West that Wan Shang-Lin's narrative simply would not have been available for a Western painter of any significance. He could not have represented himself as situated in the kind of history in which Wan felt himself at home. Wan Shang-Lin lived in fortunate times, in that he could practice an art against a tradition that had not radically changed for five centuries. The three strikingly different narrational moments in Western history are: (i) Renaissance (ii) Enlightenment (iii) Modernism.

Keywords: Chinese Art; East; Metropolitan Museum; modernism; Wan Shang-Lin; West

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