Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting Between Iconography and Iconology: A Case Study from the People’s Republic of China’s 60th Anniversary Exhibition

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Abstract

This paper seeks to analyse the iconographic and iconological significance of the 2009 exhibition Art Project concerning Important Historical Issues of the Country (Guójiā zhòngdà lìshǐ tícái měishù chuàngzuò gōngchéng). The exhibition was set up on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and was part of a series of cultural, artistic and literary activities at that time. Created and promoted by the Ministry of Finance, Culture and Propaganda, the exhibition set out the artists’ mission as the presentation of the great history and ‘great national spirit’ (wěidà mínzú jīngshén) of the people of China and ‘the cultivation and spreading of the national spirit’ (péiyǎng hé hóngyáng mínzú jīngshén). This was realised through the media of oil painting, sculpture and traditional Chinese painting, with oil paintings, as the traditional tool of representation, taking up the biggest part of the exhibition. Based on Erwin Panofsky’s arthistorical method of the three-stage model, the text explores and displays the iconographical and iconological meaning of one representative painting: The March of the Volunteers.

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