Tracing Chinese art from the 4th through the 19th centuries, writer and art historian Hui-shu Lee demonstrated how women living in China’s imperial palaces have influenced that country’s art history as much as its political legacy.
“Some of these empresses and women of power in China have also been known as patrons, tastemakers and interpreters of Chinese art,” Lee told an audience gathered for her Jan. 10 lecture at Mount St. Mary’s Doheny Mansion. “Some were even artists themselves.”
Lee’s hour-long discussion of “Empresses, Art and Agency” took place Thursday as part of the College’s “Women in China” lecture series, which are offered to the public as free events thanks to a two-year $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, Lee specializes in Chinese painting and visual culture. In 2010, she published a book called “Empresses, Art and Agency in Song Dynasty China,” documenting the ways imperial women connected themselves to court art produced by various Chinese dynasties.
During Thursday’s lecture, Lee began with Empress Wu Zetian influence as a calligrapher and art collector in the 7th century, and compared how imperial women to follow her were able to influence the world of art within China. Lee provided personal examples of artwork she had learned about while studying at National Taiwan University and working in the National Palace Museum.
The free lecture was part of Mount St. Mary’s ongoing, six-part series of free talks exploring the evolution of gender roles from ancient China through the 21st century. A question-and-answer period often follows each lecture, which take place from 6-7 p.m. inside Mount St. Mary’s historic Doheny Mansion on the College’s downtown campus.
The final two talks in the series are scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 21: “Women in 20th Century Chinese Literature” and “What Can Chinese Film Tell Us About Modern Chinese History?” For more information, or to RSVP, visit www.msmc.la.edu/WomenInChina.