Center for Chinese Studies: "The Cultural Politics of the Brushstroke"
In both modern and pre-modern critical writing, both “East and West,” the brushstroke eventually came to be characterized as a vehicle of personal expression in defiance of the "stifling" rules of naturalistic representation. By the mid-twentieth century, the image of the bohemian master flinging paint would have been familiar to both Chinese and European art lovers. It doesn’t follow, however, that the seductive rhetoric of the brushstroke has been thus deconstructed, or understood. This paper surveys the cultural politics of the brushstroke in debates between and among European, American, and Chinese intellectuals, over a period of four centuries.