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Claudia Brown (PhD '85)
Professor of Art History, School of Art at Arizona State University
Research Curator of Asian Art, Phoenix Art Museum

Dr. Claudia Brown returned to campus in September 2019 as the Franklin Murphy Distinguished Alumni lecturer. A native of Topeka, KS, Dr. Brown earned her BA (’72), MA (’74), M.Phil. (’75), and Ph.D. (’85) in art history from KU. Directed by Chu-tsing Li, Dr. Brown’s dissertation, “Ch’en Ju-yen and Late Yuan Painting in Suchou,” was supported by a four-year Graduate School Honors Fellowship from KU. Prior to taking a teaching position at Arizona State University in 1998, Dr. Brown taught in the Art Department of California State University, Long Beach (1977-78) and served as Curator of Asian Art, Phoenix Art Museum (1979-98).

Dr. Brown has been responsible for nearly forty exhibitions at Arizona State University and the Phoenix Art Museum. She authored exhibition catalogues for many of these, including “Weaving China’s Past: The Amy S. Clague Collection of Chinese Textiles,” which traveled to the El Paso Museum of Art, San Antonio Museum of Art, and China House Gallery; “Transcending Turmoil: Painting at the Close of China’s Empire, 1796-1911” (co-curated with Ju-hsi Chou), which traveled to the Denver Art Museum, Honolulu Academy of Arts, and Hong Kong Museum of Art; and “Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting” (co-curated with Ju-hsi Chou), which traveled to Northwestern University, Harvard University, and the Spencer Museum of Art at KU, among other venues.

Dr. Brown has written and edited over seventy books, articles, and exhibition catalogue essays. Her most recent book is Great Qing: Painting in China, 1644-1911 (University of Washington Press, 2014). Recent essays include “Painting and the Qing Court: Scholar-Artists, 1736-1850,” in Judith Smith, ed., Tradition and Transformation: Studies in Chinese Art in Honor of Chu-tsing Li (Spencer Museum of Art, 2005) and “Snuff Bottles and the Aesthetics of the Qing Dynasty,” Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society. Dr. Brown has delivered nearly eighty public lectures and conference papers in Asia and the US. The Arizona Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities have continuously supported her exhibitions and research.

Dr. Claudia Brown kindly responded to a few questions from David Cateforis via email.

What was the most important thing you learned as a graduate student that helped prepare you for your career?

How to look closely at works of art, and how to examine and evaluate evidence. Question everything!

What do you know now that you wish you had known as a graduate student?

In writing projects, keep pushing toward getting words on paper. Revise and adjust. Make each sentence clear and concise.

What advice do you have for today's undergraduate and graduate students regardless of their career aspirations?

Critical thinking and writing will be important in any field one enters.

What is the biggest adjustment that one has to make in transitioning from life as a graduate student to working as a full-time professional?

Meeting schedules, deadlines and work hours. Avoiding the tendency to think that university professors are the only intelligent and interesting people around.

How has your field changed since you started working in it?

I hope there is less tendency to blanket whole areas of the history of art with judgements of “low quality” or “tradition bound” or otherwise unworthy of study.

What do you consider to be your one or two greatest professional accomplishments, and why?

Establishing Asian art as a collecting area of the Phoenix Art Museum; developing the program in Asian art history at Arizona State University after it was established by Professor Ju-hsi Chou.

What question do you wish I had asked you, but didn't?

"What is the future of our field?" I don't think we can know this. We just have to adapt as best we can. For example, I eliminated the pre-requisites for my upper division courses so that business and engineering students could take my courses more easily. That has worked so far to keep enrollments reasonable. We can only hope that students will continue to be interested in art history even though they choose other majors.

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