Walter Davis

Associate Professor, History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture

Office: 3-91B Fine Arts Building
(780) 492-7875

Areas of Teaching and Research

I teach the history of East Asian art, design, and visual culture in the Department of Art & Design and Department of East Asian Studies. My course offerings in Art & Design include historical surveys of Chinese and Japanese art, design, and visual culture; advanced lecture courses on Chinese painting and East Asian calligraphy and script culture; and seminars on various topics in early modern and modern Chinese and Japanese art, design, and visual culture.

As a supervisor of student research, I supervise undergraduate honors theses on topics in Chinese and Japanese art history, and at the graduate level, I supervise MA and PhD research in the history of early modern and modern Chinese painting and in the history of modern Sino-Japanese artistic and cultural exchanges. I encourage my supervisees to engage with the University of Alberta's Mactaggart Art Collection and Print Study Centre, which have strong holdings in late imperial Chinese painting and textiles and Japanese prints. Several of my students have incorporated the riches of University of Alberta Museums into their theses and have worked as curatorial interns and gallery assistants. I also advocate for my students to disseminate their research at graduate student and professional conferences, and they have presented at such gatherings as the Stanford-Berkeley Graduate Student Conference in Premodern Chinese Humanities, the Harvard East Asia Society Conference, and the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs Annual Meeting. Students who have completed MA degrees under my supervision have gone on to PhD programs at the University of Sydney, The Ohio State University, and Cambridge University, and they have found employment in post-secondary institutions and the private sector. In 2023 I was awarded the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentorship.

My current research focuses on traditionalist painting and calligraphy of modern China and Japan, Sino-Japanese visual culture of the late-19th and 20th centuries, and how such local Japanese endeavours as Japan’s Calligraphy Performance Kōshien and the projects of Benesse Art Site Naoshima undertake cultural preservation, social renewal, economic development, and internationalization. My publications include the exhibition catalogue All under Heaven: The Chinese World in Maps, Pictures, and Texts from the Collection of Floyd Sully (Edmonton: University of Alberta Libraries, 2013), which won the American Library Association's Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab American Book Prices Current Exhibition Catalogue Award (Category 1, Expensive) for 2014, and "Art, Aesthetics, and Religion in Modern China," in Modern Chinese Religion II: 1850-2015, eds. Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 197-257. My monograph Culture in Common: Wang Yiting's Art of Exchange with Japan will soon be published by Brill.


BA (Honors), University of Kansas; MA, University of Kansas, 1998; PhD, Ohio State University, 2008

After studying Classical Languages and Philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, I completed an MA in East Asian Art History at the University of Kansas under Marsha Haufler and a PhD in History of Art at the Ohio State University under Julia F. Andrews. My graduate training focused on premodern and 20th-century Chinese painting and calligraphy, premodern Japanese painting, and the Buddhist art of South, Inner, and East Asia. Before I began teaching at the University of Alberta in 2007, I studied at Nanjing University in China, taught English in Kobe, Japan, conducted dissertation research under Hiromitsu Kobayashi at Sophia University in Tokyo, and taught at Ohio University and Lewis & Clark College in the United States. In addition to teaching and conducting research at the University of Alberta, I have also served in such administrative roles as Associate Chair (Undergraduate Programs) and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Art & Design, Acting Chair of the Department of East Asian Studies, and Acting Director of the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research.

View curriculum vitae.