Percival David Professor of the History of Art
Percival David Professor of the History of Art
Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute
- Professor Shane McCausland
- Email address:
- 020 7898 4705
- 020 7898 4699
- SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
- Brunei Gallery
- Office No:
- Office Hours:
- Wednesdays 3-4pm
An historian of visual arts and material culture, I publish mainly on the calligraphy and painting of dynastic China, but have also written about contemporary, Japanese and European arts. I am interested in interpreting artistic forms and traces, and in contextualising them in terms of visual and disciplinary debates. I have explored issues including artistic development, workshop practices, ceramic history and aesthetics, collecting and connoisseurship, narrative art, cultural interaction, formal analysis and visual literacy. I have authored articles and monographs, including one on the art of the Yuan-dynasty Chinese polymath Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) (Hong Kong University Press, 2010) but have also co-authored or co-edited volumes with scholars including Stacey Pierson, Matthew McKelway, Ling Lizhong and Yin Hwang.
As an undergraduate at Cambridge I read 'Oriental Studies (Chinese)' under David McMullen before working at Christie's Chinese department in London and on assignment in Hong Kong in the early 1990s. I won a scholarship to the Graduate School at Princeton University in 1993 and, moving to America and shifting into Art History with East Asian Studies, trained there under Wen C. Fong until 1999, finishing up my doctoral thesis on Zhao Mengfu during a fellowship in the Asian Art department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Along the way I curated my first Asian art exhibition, on Chinese landscape paintings at the Art Museum, Princeton University. In 1999 I returned to the British Isles, first to a string of posts in London - as a research and teaching fellow in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, then still at 53 Gordon Square (1999-2002); as a temporary lecturer in the history of Chinese art at SOAS (2002-03); and as a research fellow in the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC), based at SOAS (2003-04). During that time much of my research was geared toward the 'Admonitions of the Court Instructress' picture-scroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi (c. 344-c. 406) in the British Museum, the topic of a conference I organised at SOAS in 2001. In 2004, I joined the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, under the directorship of Michael Ryan, as Curator of the East Asian Collections and later also Head of Collections. In these roles, I was involved in a range of projects, such as the ASEMUS Travelling Exhibition on portraiture (with a study of Louis le Brocquy's portrait head of Bono), and exhibitions at the Library itself, including one of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Codex Leicester' from the Gates collection, and 'Telling Images of China: Narrative and Figure Paintings, 15th-20th Century, from the Shanghai Museum'.
In 2009 I returned to SOAS to a research and teaching post in the renamed Department of the History of Art and Archaeology. I was made Reader in the History of Art of China in 2012. During the 2012-13 session I was on sabbatical writing a general study of culture in Mongol China under the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) for Reaktion Books. I held one fellowship at the Graduate Institute of Art History in National Taiwan University during the autumn of 2012 and another at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the spring of 2013. I currently serve as a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
**Note to potential doctoral students:** I tend to take one or two MPhil/PhD students each year. Because of the time limit on doctoral studies in the UK system (3 + 1 years), I prefer my doctoral students - who have come from China, Taiwan, Singapore, the UK and Europe - to have trained under me at MA level even if they already have a relevant qualification from elsewhere. Although my doctoral students usually work on China-related topics, I expect them to demonstrate interest in the discipline and method of art history beyond the East Asia region. The qualities that I look for include: visual acuity and the potential for a very high degree of visual literacy; composure in the presence of artworks; an ability to position oneself critically within the evolving global discourse of art history -- and to identify imaginative (and appropriate) interpretive strategies; sound sinological skills; academic integrity and judgement.