Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Bleeke, Marian

Subject Headings

Artists -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region, Art, Tibetan -- 21st century, Art, Tibetan -- 20th century, Contemporary Tibetan Art, Tibetan Art, Protest Art, Tibetan Art Identity, Modern Tibet, Contemporary Tibetan Identity, Gonkar Gyatso, Gade, Dedron, Norbu Tsering, Jhamsang, Socialist Art, Communist China, Tibetan Romanticism


The notion of Tibetan art as a preservation of the Shangri-La culture that existed before Chinese occupation is a pervasive ideology among western scholars. Buddhist thangka paintings were and still are an important aspect of Tibetan heritage and sense of identity. This paper, however, focuses on the shifting roles of Tibetan artists from the onset of the Chinese "liberation" of Tibet in 1959 to present day. The tremendous lack of scholarship on contemporary Tibetan artists, including both those who still live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and those who have traveled abroad, has served as a catalyst for the research presented in this thesis. The major theme of this paper, which encompasses the shifts in Tibetan artistic identity over the past sixty years, is presented three different sections. The first section explains artistic identity as it was before the Chinese occupation. The second section presents Tibetan art identity as it existed under Communist rule and the Cultural Revolution, and the third section notes the changes in contemporary art identity in regards to the post-Mao era to present day. The change in social and political climates dictates how Tibetans classify and explain their identity and the roles of artists change with both internal and external influences. The Buddhist thangka artists, socialist-realist painters, and contemporary artists, all define Tibetan artistic identity over the last sixty years and create a visual, interconnected timeline of Tibetan people's suffering and transformation

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