China the Beautiful

Chang Dai-chien [Zhang Daqian]

Chang Dai-chien [Zhang Daqian] (1899-1983) was a native of Nei-chiang, Szechwan. His original given name Chuan was later changed to Yuan, while his childhood name Chi was later incorporated into his studio name Chi-yuan. He took the religious name Dai-chien upon becoming a Buddhist monk, and after returning to the laity he called himself Dai-chien chu-shih or "Lay believer Dai-chien."

At the age of 21 he studied under Tseng Hsi and Li Jui-ching. Taking Shih Tao and Pa-ta Shan-jen as his starting point, he sought out as many paintings by famous artists of past centuries as he could to copy. Beginning with an impressionistic style and progressing to meticulous brushwork, he developed the ability to move between these techniques with complete master. In 1941 he traveled to DunHuang where he spent two years and seven months copying wall paintings. Here he studied traditional coloration and line drawing methods, being particularly moved by the grand scale and complex layout of the high Tang style. The sumptuous splendor of high Tang art inspired him with the desire to create great art.

Besides copying from old masters Chang Dai-chien was also expert at painting from life.

Chang Dai-chien traveled widely in Europe and America, where he came into contact with the contemporary art movement in the West. This spurred a sea change in his methods of painting, and he created unique splashed-ink and splashed-color styles, expanding the potential of plane surfaces and coloration. In his later years, he combined splashed ink and splashed color with the masterly texture strokes and liberation of his early years to form a new synthesis. Hovering between concrete and abstract, reveling in freedom and unpredictability, Chang Dai-chien's work created a whole new style of modern Chinese painting.

-- By Chen Kang-Shun

Zhang Daqian's Paitings | [Chinese paintings Page]