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Michael Sullivan (art historian)

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Michael Sullivan (art historian)

Michael Sullivan (Chinese: 蘇立文; pinyin: Sū Lìwén; 29 October 1916 – 28 September 2013) was a Canadian-born British art historian and collector, and one of the major Western pioneers in the field of modern Chinese art history and criticism.[1][2]

Sullivan was born in Toronto, Canada, and moved to England at the age of three. He was the youngest of five children of Alan Sullivan (pen name Sinclair Murray), a Canadian mining engineer turned novelist and his wife Elisabeth (née Hees).[2] Sullivan was a graduate of Rugby School and graduated from the University of Cambridge in architecture in 1939. He was in China from 1940–1946 with the International and Chinese Red Cross followed by teaching and doing museum work in Chengdu, where he met and married Wu Huan (Khoan), a biologist who gave up her career to work with him.

He received a PhD from Harvard University (1952) and a post-doctoral Bollingen Fellowship. He subsequently taught in the University of Singapore, and returned to London in the 1960s to teach at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Then he became Head of the Department of Oriental Art at Stanford University from 1966 to 1984, before moving to the University of Oxford as a Fellow by Special Election at St Catherine's College, Oxford.[3] He lived in Oxford, England.[4]

Sullivan was a major art collector who owned more than 400 works of art, including paintings by Chinese masters Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian, and Wu Guanzhong. His was one of the world's most significant collections of modern Chinese art. He bequeathed his collection to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which has a gallery dedicated to Sullivan and his wife Khoan.[5]


His books include


  • "Review: A Great Leap Forward for Modern Chinese Art History? Recent Publications in China and the United States-A Review Article", Ralph C. Croizier, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Aug., 1998), pp. 786–793


  1. ^ "Professor Michael Sullivan, 1916 – 2013". Oxford University. 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Michael Sullivan obituary". The Guardian. 2013-10-25. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  3. ^ The Arts of China, Fifth Edition, Revised and Expanded
  4. ^ Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China
  5. ^ "Ashmolean acquires major Chinese art collection". BBC. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
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