Students of modern Chinese art encounter any number of challenges, including the loss and destruction of artworks, vast yet unexamined archives, multiple dense narrative threads, and persistent simplistic invocations of east/west and tradition/modernity. Our understanding of this complex era is far from incomplete and undertheorized. Nevertheless, its study has benefited from recent investigations into the intense participation of twentieth-century Chinese artists in global and transcultural artistic trends, styles, movements, and concerns.

In the case of Yi Gu's Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting, the author considers the arrival of plein-airism in China and its importance to new concepts of vision and visuality. The act of direct observation through painting or drawing outdoors, open-air art practices or xiesheng, could redefine the artist's visual and conceptual relationship to their subjects. As Gu demonstrates, open-air art's associations with truthfulness had far-reaching implications for new ways of seeing and understanding the...

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