Professor Listing


Walter Davis, PhD History of Art, The Ohio State University

Associate Professor


Art and Design | East Asian Studies

About Me

I am an historian of China and Japan’s early modern and modern visual arts who is particularly interested in their historical intertwining and mutual development. After studying classical languages and philosophy as an undergraduate, I completed an MA in East Asian Art History at the University of Kansas under the supervision of Marsha Haufler and a PhD in History of Art at the Ohio State University under the supervision of 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 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. 


My current research focuses on the following.

  • visual and literary representation of the supernatural in early modern East Asia (through co-organization of a conference and publication project with Dr. Anne Commons of the Department of East Asian Studies)
  • characterizations of China in Japanese visual culture of the first half of the 20th century
  • the transnational construction of early modern and modern Chinese identities through topographic, cartographic, and ethnographic representation

My recent 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. 


Graduate Supervision

Because I am jointly appointed in the Department of Art and Design and the Department of East Asian Studies, I supervise graduate students in both units. MA and PhD students who work with me typically undertake research in the history of early modern or 20th-century Chinese art, design, and visual culture or in the history of Sino-Japanese visual culture exchanges. I encourage my students to develop their art historical and professional skills by engaging the University of Alberta's Mactaggart Art Collection, which has strong holdings in Qing painting and textiles. Several of my students have worked as curatorial interns and gallery assistants for the collection, and several have incorporated its riches into successful theses. Students who have completed MA degrees with me have gone on to PhD programs at the University of Sydney, The Ohio State University, and Cambridge University and have found employment at the University of Alberta.

BA Honors Supervision

I supervise undergraduate honors thesis research on topics in East Asian art history. Students whom I have supervised have earned an internship at the Smithsonian Institution through the Alberta Smithsonian Internship Program, a Roger S. Smith Undergraduate Researcher Award, and the University's Dr John MacDonald Medal in Arts.

Undergraduate and Graduate Course Offerings

  • EASIA 101 Understanding East Asia
  • EASIA 232 Overview of Chinese Culture
  • EASIA 240 Overview of Japanese Culture
  • HADVC 217 Japanese Art, Design, and Visual Culture
  • HADVC 211 Topics in the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture: Buddhist Art
  • INT D 225 Theme Studies in Japan (an occasional offering that I teach at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan; organized by the Prince Takamado Japan Centre; topic varies)
  • HADVC 301 Geographies of Art, Design and Visual Culture: Painting of Imperial China
  • HADVC 412/512 Topics in Asian Art: Orthodoxy and Eccentricity in Chinese Painting of the 17th and 18th Centuries
  • HADVC 412/512 Topics in Asian Art: Place, History, and Ethnography in Chinese Painting, Prints, and Maps
  • HADVC 412/512 Topics in Asian Art: Traditionalist Modernities of China and Japan
  • EASIA 598 Topics in East Asian Research
  • EASIA 599 Directed Readings in East Asian Studies