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Dai-chien Chang

Aliases: Zhang Daqian, Ta-ts'ien Tchang, Dai-Zhien Zhang, Ta-ch'ien Chang, Dafeng Tang, Daqian Jushi, Jiyuan, Yuan, Daqian Zhang, Yuan Zhang, Da Qian Zhang


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(b Neijiang, Sichuan Province, 10 May 1899; d Taipei, 2 April 1983). Chinese painter, calligrapher, collector and forger. Dai-chien Chang (Zhang Daqian) was born into an artistic family; he began to paint under the tutelage of his mother, Ceng Yi, and did his first paid painting for the local fortune-teller when he was 12 years old. At 15 he embarked on three years of schooling at the Qiujing Academy in Chongzing. In 1917 he went to Kyoto, Japan to join his elder brother Zhang Shanzi (1882–1940). Here, Chang learnt the art of textile painting, and the brothers collaborated in painting tigers; Shanzi painted the animals and Chang the surroundings. He developed an artistic style that stemmed from both an impressionist tradition and a mastery over meticulous brushwork. In 1919, Chang returned to China studying under artists Li Ruiqing and Ceng Xi. Here he was exposed to Li’s calligraphy in seal script (zhuanshu), based on models of the Zhou to Wei periods (c. 1050 BC– AD 265), as well as running script (xingshu) and regular script (kaishu). Although Chang was not primarily a calligrapher, he developed his own personal style: his characters are intentionally splayed and awkward and elements within a character lean in unexpected directions. Dai-chien Chang traveled widely in Europe and America, where he came into contact with the contemporary art movement in the West. This spurred a change in his painting technique, and led him to create 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 masterful brushwork creating a synthesis between his early artistic styles and his later developments. Hovering between concrete and abstract, reveling in freedom and unpredictability, Dai-chien Chang’s work created a whole new style of modern Chinese painting. He left China in 1948 and moved to Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil, and then to Carmel, California, before finally settling in Taipei, Taiwan.

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