Art as History

Calligraphy and Painting as One

Wen C. Fong
Art as History book cover
Published in 2014 by P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art, Princeton University, in association with Princeton University Press
Hardcover  |  ISBN 9780691162492
504 pp.  |  10 × 8  |  259 color illus. and 49 halftones

This richly illustrated book provides an anthology and summation of the work of one of the world’s leading historians of Chinese painting and calligraphy. Wen Fong helped create the field of East Asian art history during a distinguished five-decade career at Princeton University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Few if any writers in English have such a broad knowledge of the history and practice of calligraphy and Chinese painting. In this collection of some of his most recent essays, Fong gives a sweeping tour through the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy as he offers new and revised views on a broad range of important subjects.

The topics addressed include “art as history,” in which each art object preserves a moment in art’s own significant history; the museum as a place of serious study and education; the close historical relationship between calligraphy and painting and their primacy among Chinese fine arts; the parallel development of representational painting and sculpture in early painting history; the greater significance of brushwork, seen abstractly as a means of personal expression by the artist, in later painting history; the paradigmatic importance of the master-to-follower lineage—of genealogy as a social force—in shaping the continuity and directing the subtle changes in Chinese painting history; the role of collectors; and the critical necessity of authenticated works for establishing an accurate art history.

Throughout the book, Fong skillfully combines close analysis and detailed contextualization of individual works to reveal how the study of Chinese painting and calligraphy yields deep insights about Chinese culture and history.

About the author

Wen C. Fong is professor emeritus of Chinese art history at Princeton University, where he taught from 1954 to 1999, established the country’s first PhD program in Chinese and Japanese art and archaeology, and served for many years as faculty curator of Asian art at the Princeton University Art Museum. He also served as consultative chairman of the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for three decades before retiring in 2000. His many books include Images of the Mind, Beyond Representation, and Possessing the Past.