History of Art Graduate Department of Art

Reading Revolution: Art and Literacy during China’s Cultural Revolution

Monday, September 12, 2016


Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Reading Revolution: Art and Literacy during China’s Cultural Revolution

20 June – 30 September 2016

The year 2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a social and political movement launched in May of 1966 by Mao Zedong (1893–1976), then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, which lasted until Mao’s death in 1976. The Cultural Revolution sought to implement “true” Communist thought and to make dominant Maoist ideology. Taking this milestone as an occasion on which better to understand the Cultural Revolution, the Fisher Library is hosting an exhibition on the relation of this movement to visual art and literacy. Specifically, this exhibition of two hundred and seventeen objects explores the importance of reading during this period, examining how propaganda posters and other artifacts of the Cultural Revolution represented the writings of Chairman Mao, how these posters and artifacts popularized a culture of Mao’s books, and how, in turn, text-heavy propaganda posters, artifacts representing books, and the large-scale printing of books of “Mao Zedong Thought” (Mao Zedong sixiang) created a context for increased literacy.

Highlights include a selection of rare propaganda posters from the seminal phase of the Cultural Revolution (1966–69). From posters illustrating quotations from Chairman Mao to those encouraging the masses to read, these works reveal a distinct aesthetic in this early phase of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, the exhibition showcases contemporaneous books such as The Selected Works of Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong xuanji, 1951–60) and The Quotations of Chairman Mao (Mao Zhuxi yulu, 1964), as well as translations of Mao’s works in foreign languages. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue also feature artifacts from the Cultural Revolution related to literacy and the practice of reading, including Mao badges, paper cuts, archival photographs, pamphlets, postcards, and children’s toys.

This exhibition is curated by Jenny Purtle, Associate Professor of Chinese and East Asian Art, Department of History of Art/Graduate Department of Art, Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, with assistance from Stephen Qiao of the East Asian Library at the University of Toronto and the Fisher Library’s Liz Ridolfo.

A video narrated by Jenny Purtle and featuring highlights from the collection can be viewed on Fisher Library’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viMgf4Taw6M. There is also an hour-long audio guide that accompanies the exhibition, narrated by the curators. It can streamed or downloaded via SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/fisher-rare-book-library; it is also available as a podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/thomas-fisher-rare-book-library/id1081666924?mt=2.

A catalogue of the exhibition is also available for purchase. Catalogue ISBN: 978-0-7727-6119-4 (paperback)

In memoriam, W. McAllister Johnson, 1939–2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

W. McAllister Johnson 1939-2016

W. McAllister Johnson.
Perth area, 2013.

The Department of History of Art/Graduate Department of Art is very saddened to announce the passing of of Faculty Emeritus W. McAllister Johnson on August 23, 2016.  As per Mac’s wishes, there will be no funeral or remembrance service.

Please listen to this podcast, dated 2010 which gives an idea of some of his scholarly activities over four decades.


Shirley Beatty, Class of 1951, establishes new Undergraduate Scholarships

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shirley Beatty, Class of 1951, Department of Art and Archaeology, has donated $350,000 to establish the William R. and Shirley Beatty Undergraduate Scholarships. These are to benefit undergraduate students of the Department of History of Art with the highest level of financial need. Shirley Beatty wants  to ensure that students continue to have access to the wonderfully fulfilling experience she had of studying art here, whatever their circumstances. In making this investment she wants to send a message to these students and to others: namely, that the study of art and the broader humanities is immensely valuable to us as individuals, as a society and a civilization.

Graduate Department of Art to offer two compressed courses for graduate students during the Winter 2015 term

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Graduate Department of Art will be offering two compressed or “sprint” courses for graduate students during the Winter 2015 term:

FAH 3000H S – “Early Mass Visual Culture in the United States” – a special graduate seminar, sponsored by Centre for the Study of the United States/Graduate Department of Art.
Professor Michael Leja, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania.

FAH 3013H S – “Problems in Song Dynasty Painting”
Alfreda Murck, the Bernard Herman Distinguished Visiting Scholar

For more details on courses offered, click here.

Department of History of Art/Graduate Department of Art to host Connecting Art Histories project

Monday, November 17, 2014


The Department of History of Art, St. George campus, and the Tri-Campus Graduate Program in the History of Art are pleased to announce that they are embarking on a Getty Foundation-funded Connecting Art Histories Project, “Global and Postglobal Perspectives on Medieval Art and Art History,” in partnership with the School of Arts and Humanities at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA). Through a program of exchange teaching and funded fieldtrips for faculty and students at both institutions to sites in China and Sicily, this project aims to develop connective and comparative understandings of medieval art and art history in China and North America. In this way it seeks to establish durable links between scholars and graduate students of medieval art, broadly conceived, in both regions, thus contributing to the worldwide growth of the discipline of art history.

For more information about the Getty Foundation Connecting Art Histories initiative, click HERE.

For detailed information about the UofT-GAFA project for current and prospective students, HERE.

Site Design & Development by Office/Bureau