A distinguished scholar of Chinese art, Wu Hung was selected as the National Gallery of Art’s 2019 A.W. Mellon lecturer. The renowned art historian and professor at the University of Chicago will present six lectures beginning in March 2019 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., that examine the period between the third century BC and 1911, in which a succession of nine dynasties shaped the political and cultural landscape of China.
“Each dynasty had its own mandate,” says Wu, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service professor of Art History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations. “But when a dynasty didn’t do it well, it lost that mandate, which could generate lots of anxiety and excitement. You can see that in the art [of the period].”
During the lecture series entitled End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time, he will explore the art and culture of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC) and the influence of the pre-dynastic cultures on later eras. The presentations will integrate recent archaeological research. Some of questions Wu will consider: In what ways was artistic creation connected to such profound historical temporality? How did visual forms imbue and manifest the philosophy and psychology intrinsic to dynastic time?
“The goal is not to provide a beginning and end to these periods,” says Wu, the director of the Center for the Art of East Asia and consulting curator of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. Instead, he intends each lecture to be a case study for how the times and art of the dynasties can be connected.
“The works of art are Chinese, the history is Chinese,” Wu says. “But the issues go beyond that.”
Wu is the 68th lecturer in the series, which has included famous art historians such as Kenneth Clark, the British art historian who produced the PBS television series “Civilizations;” E.H. Gombrich, the author of The Story of Art; and Anthony Blunt, the scholar turned Soviet spy. Like previous A.W. Mellon lecturers, Wu will turn these talks into a book to be published by the Princeton University Press.
Wu’s six lecture dates in 2019 are March 31, April 7, April 14, April 28, May 5, and May 12.