Chang Dai-chien

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Chang Dai-chien
Zhang Daqian
張大千
Chang Dai-chien.jpg
Born
Zhāng Zhèngquán (張正權)

(1899-05-10)10 May 1899
Neijiang, Sichuan, China
Died2 April 1983(1983-04-02) (aged 83)
NationalityRepublic of China (ROC)
Known for Painting
Movement guohua , impressionism, expressionism
Spouse(s)謝舜華, 黃凝素, 曾慶蓉, 楊婉君, 徐雯波
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 張大千
Simplified Chinese 张大千
Chang Dai-chien
Children長女張心瑞、子張心澄、么女張心聲

Chang Dai-chien or Zhang Daqian (Chinese :張大千; Wade–Giles :Chang Ta-ch'ien; 10 May 1899 – 2 April 1983) was one of the best-known and most prodigious Chinese artists of the twentieth century. Originally known as a guohua (traditionalist) painter, by the 1960s he was also renowned as a modern impressionist and expressionist painter. In addition, he is regarded as one of the most gifted master forgers of the twentieth century.

Contents

Background

Chang was born in 1899 in Sichuan Province to a financially struggling but artistic family, whose members had converted to Roman Catholicism. [1] His first commission came at age 12, when a traveling fortune-teller requested he paint her a new set of divining cards. At age 17 he was captured by bandits while returning home from boarding school in Chongqing. When the bandit chief ordered him to write a letter home demanding a ransom, he was so impressed by the boy's brushmanship that he made the boy his personal secretary. During the more than three months that he was held captive, he read books of poetry which the bandits had looted from raided homes. [2]

In 1917, Chang moved to Kyoto to learn textile dyeing techniques. He later returned to Shanghai in 1919 and established a successful career selling his paintings. [3]

The governor of Qinghai, Ma Bufang, sent Chang to Sku'bum to seek helpers for analyzing and copying Dunhuang's Buddhist art. [4]

Due to the political climate of China in 1949, he left the country and then moved to Mendoza, Argentina in 1952. Two years later, he resided in São Paulo, Brazil. In the 1960s he settled in Carmel, California and toured extensively around Northern California. Chang's first California solo exhibition in 1967 at Stanford University attracted an opening reception crowd of a thousand. [5] Finally he settled in Taipei, Taiwan in 1978. [6] [7] During his years of wandering he had several wives simultaneously, curried favor with influential people, and maintained a large entourage of relatives and supporters. He also kept a pet gibbon. He affected the long robe and long beard of a scholar. [2]

A meeting between Chang and Picasso in Nice, France in 1956 was viewed as a summit between the preeminent masters of Eastern and Western art. The two men exchanged paintings at this meeting. [6]

Artistic career

In the early 1920s, Chang started pursuing professional studies in Shanghai, where he studied with two famous artists, Zeng Xi and Li Ruiqing. His elder brother Zhang Shanzi, who was a famous painter at the time, brought him to a literary salon in 1924 where his first appearance impressed the attendants. His first exhibition of 100 paintings was in 1925 at Ningbo Association in Shanghai. [8]

In the late 1920s and 1930s, Chang moved to Beijing where he befriended other famous artists, including Yu Feian, Wang Shensheng, Ye Qianyu, Chen Banding, Qi Baishi, and Pu Xinyu. Chang had collaborated with Pu on painting and calligraphy. At the time, there was an idiom "Chang from the south, Pu from the north (南張北 [8]

In the 1930s he worked out of a studio on the grounds of the Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou. In 1933, while an exhibition of modern Chinese paintings organized by Xu Beihong was held in Paris, France, and Zhang's exhibited painting "Golden Lotus (金荷)" was purchased by the French government. In 1935, he accepted the invitation from Xu Beihong to be a professor at National Central University Art Department in Nanjing. In the same year, his portfolio was published in Shanghai. In 1936, his personal exhibition was held in the United Kingdom.

In the early 1940s, Chang led a group of artists in copying the Buddhist wall paintings in the Mogao and Yulin caves. In order to copy the inner layer of the multilayered murals in the Mogao Caves, Chang removed and damaged several outer layers of the paintings in Cave 108, 130 and 454. In 1943, he exhibited his copies of murals and supported the establishment of the Dunhuang Art Institute, the predecessor of the Dunhuang Research Academy. In 1945, Chang's works, as a part of a UNESCO's touring contemporary art exhibition, were showed in Paris, London, Prague and Geneva. [9]

In the late 1950s, his deteriorating eyesight led him to develop his splashed color, or pocai, style, which combines abstract expressionism with traditional Chinese styles of painting. [10] In the 1970s, he mentored painter Minol Araki.

In 1957, Zhang Daqian was invited to hold exhibitions in The Louvre and Musée Guimet in Paris, where Picasso was also holding a show. Zhang seized this opportunity to meet the him. Picasso was delighted to meet Zhang and even asked him to criticise his Chinese paintings. Zhang directly told Picasso that he did not have the right brushes to do Chinese art. Ten years later, Picasso received a gift from Zhang– two Chinese writing brushes made from the hair of 2500 three-year-old cows. [10]

Forgeries

Chang's forgeries are difficult to detect for many reasons. First, his ability to mimic the great Chinese masters:

So prodigious was his virtuosity within the medium of Chinese ink and colour that it seemed he could paint anything. His output spanned a huge range, from archaising works based on the early masters of Chinese painting to the innovations of his late works which connect with the language of Western abstract art. [11]

Second, he paid scrupulous attention to the materials he used. "He studied paper, ink, brushes, pigments, seals, seal paste, and scroll mountings in exacting detail. When he wrote an inscription on a painting, he sometimes included a postscript describing the type of paper, the age and the origin of the ink, or the provenance of the pigments he had used."

Third, he often forged paintings based on descriptions in catalogues of lost paintings; his forgeries came with ready-made provenance. [12]

Chang's forgeries have been purchased as original paintings by several major art museums in the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

Of particular interest is a master forgery acquired by the Museum in 1957 as an authentic work of the tenth century. The painting, which was allegedly a landscape by the Five Dynasties period master Guan Tong, is one of Chang’s most ambitious forgeries and serves to illustrate both his skill and his audacity. [13]

It can be hard to attribute works to Chang since his style was so varied. Not only did he create his own work as well as forging other artists, but others would forge his originals.

Additionally, in China, "forgery" does not hold the same nefarious connotation as it does in Western culture. What would be considered illegal forgery in the United States is not necessarily as criminal in China. Actions he took to fall under the Western definition of forgery include aging work with electric hairdryers, and creating fake provenance with his collection of seals that he could use to mark past "owners" of the work. To further this provenance, his friend Puru would provide a colophon authenticating the work's imperial origins. [14]

Art historian James Cahill claimed that the painting The Riverbank, a masterpiece from the Southern Tang dynasty, held by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, was likely another Chang forgery. The silk the piece is painted on could be carbon dated to help authenticate it, however since there has been some restoration on it -- the border repaired and the painting remounted and reglued -- not only would getting a sample to test be difficult, but there would be no guarantee the sample only contains original material. [15]

Museum curators are cautioned to examine Chinese paintings of questionable origins, especially those from the bird and flower genre with the query, "Could this be by Chang Dai-chien?" [13] Joseph Chang, Curator of Chinese Art at the Sackler Museum, suggested that many notable collections of Chinese art contained forgeries by the master painter. [15]

It is estimated that Chang made more than 10 million dollars selling his forgeries. [16]

Notable works

See also

Bibliography

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References

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  2. 1 2 {{He was a Lion Among Painters, Constance A. Bond, Smithsonian, January 1992, p. 90}}
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