Department of Art History
“The Dream of the Southern City”: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in Beijing’s Xuannan District
Friday, June 4, 4-6 pm
This presentation explores the social and artistic milieu of late eighteenth-century Beijing from the perspective of the émigré community of scholars, officials, and artists that settled in the Xuannan District. Because of its thriving antique and book markets, entertainment industry, and diverse population, the neighborhood of the Southern City had emerged as the capital’s new social and cultural hub, attracting students and scholars from all over the empire in search of official sponsorship and new possibilities for self-reinvention in its active scholarly circles. Concentration, diversity and mobility gave rise to a particular experience of the city that was celebrated in specialized literature and travel accounts.
Luo Ping (1733-1799) spent most of his late years in Beijing where he established himself as leading figure in an articulated network of patrons that included high-ranking officials, professionalized scholars, members of the Manchu nobility and foreign envoys. The landscape and studio paintings produced during this time outlined a ‘topography’ of alliances that coexisted and superimposed itself over the ongoing project of representing Beijing as the seat of the imperial power. I am interested in reconsidering Luo Ping’s paintings of Beijing through the lens of the particular life conditions of the Xuannan District and the contemporary emergence of poetry society, in order to understand the ways in which the appreciation of painting partook in broader processes of the elite’s self-definition and group-formation, in a time of tightened ideological control and political uncertainty.