University of Exeter


Chinese Face and American Body: uncovering images of masculinity in late 19th to mid 20th Century Chinese and American Painting

Male images in Chinese and American academic painting share the same roots in the late 19th Century French academy, but because of their differing cultural and social backgrounds, each developed their own trajectory of image into the 20th Century.

In late imperial China, following the banning of Confucian philosophy, traditional culture was either ignored or completely abandoned. The male image in China was submerged, as it was thought more indispensable to bring man’s face back at the time for the nation. On the other hand, during its nation-building period, America was transformed from a small agricultural nation into one of the great industrial powers of the world: physical strength was necessary at the time for the country, and was celebrated in images accordingly.

Combining visual and textual analysis with an examination of social and cultural aspects surrounding these works, I uncover how Chinese and American artists redefined their cultural identities in relation to their own cultures, to other cultures, and to global culture generally. In both case, bringing male images to the surface not only reinvigorated interest in masculinity but also created the possibility of a new balance between the masculine and feminine that could move the culture forward.


About Aihua

Aihua was born in Beijing, China. She pursued a professional education at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. After this she immigrated to the United States, where she studied figurative art at Cal Lutheran University and classical figurative sculpture at Academy of Art University, San Francisco where she graduated with her MFA.

Aihua has read widely in philosophy, the history of art, and aesthetic theory. She is currently attending a doctoral program in art history and visual culture at the University of Exeter, England, focusing on the relationship between the art and culture of the East and West.

She teaches drawing at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.