The Art of Resistance

Painting by Candlelight in Mao's China

Shelley Drake Hawks

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  • Published: November 2017
  • Subject Listing: Art History / Asian Art; Asian Studies / China; History
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 96 color illus., 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Art History Publication Initiative Books
  • Contents

The Art of Resistance surveys the lives of seven painters-Ding Cong (1916-2009), Feng Zikai (1898-1975), Li Keran (1907-89), Li Kuchan (1898-1983), Huang Yongyu (b. 1924), Pan Tianshou (1897-1971), and Shi Lu (1919-82)-during China's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a time when they were considered counterrevolutionary and were forbidden to paint. Drawing on interviews with the artists and their families and on materials collected during her visits to China, Shelley Drake Hawks examines their painting styles, political outlooks, and life experiences.

These fiercely independent artists took advantage of moments of low surveillance to secretly "paint by candlelight." In doing so, they created symbolically charged art that is open to multiple interpretations. The wit, courage, and compassion of these painters will inspire respect for the deep emotional and spiritual resonance of Chinese art.
Shelley Drake Hawks teaches art history and world history at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts.

"These interviews are a unique and precious resource. They offer a special insight into the lives of the artists."
-Paul Clark, author of Youth Culture in China: From Red Guards to Netizens

"Written with grace and keen insight, this work illuminates unexpected aspects of China's culture, while adding a new dimension to global discourse about the role of art in times of historical trauma. Hawks offers startlingly new visual evidence for spiritual resistance in Mao's China, which will enable readers to think afresh about the Nazi Holocaust and Stalin's reign of terror as well. This book accomplishes a rare feat: it addresses both art and history compellingly in a way that enriches both disciplines."
-Vera Schwarz, author of Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China and Beyond