After taking a degree in Chinese Studies at Cambridge (with year in Beijing in the middle), and writing a PhD about the Mongolian romantic novel, I worked initially as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum for nearly fifteen years. I then taught art history at the University of Sussex and the School of Oriental and African studies before coming to Oxford and to Trinity as Professor of Art History in 2007.
My teaching is in the context of the History of Art Department, so I don’t teach Trinity undergraduates, except those historians who opt for the Special Subject on ‘Painting and Culture in Ming China’. I also teach MSt students on the Master’s degree in History of Art and Visual Culture, and I supervise postgraduate research students on a range of topics in Chinese art from the Ming period to the present day.
My main research interest is in the art and culture of China in the Ming period, from 1368-1644, but I also have strong interests in the art of the twentieth century. In 2012 I delivered the AW Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, under the title ‘Chinese Painting and its Audiences’, and I am currently completing a book on the same subject.
I have written the introductory book Art in China (1997, second edition 2009) in the Oxford History of Art Series.
My most recent book is Chinese Painting and Its Audiences, Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Bollingen Series, (Princeton, 2017), pp.288.
My other books include:
- Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China (London, 2013), pp. 248
- Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644 (2007), based on the 2004 Slade Lectures.
- Elegant Debts: The Social Art of Wen Zhengming, 1470-1559 (2004).
- Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (1997).
- Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China (1996).
- Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (1991).
Several of these books have been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I also have interests in the methodology and historiography of art history and contributed a study of the social history of art to the anthology Critical Terms for Art History (1996).