Zhang Daqian

Born 1899. Died 1983.
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Zhang Daqian Biography

Chang Ta-ch'ien (Zhang Daqian) is one of the best-known and most prolific Chinese artists of the 20th century, as prized for his detailed portraits as he is for his splashed-ink landscapes. Originally a traditionalist who excelled at a broad range of classical Chinese styles and techniques, he later developed innovative methods such as pouring ink and colour on paper or silk to produce random, evocative forms to which he added small figurative details such as a figure or a tree. Combining traditional Chinese brushwork and semiabstract compositions related to American Abstract Exressionism, Chang created highly innovative works distinguished by rich, dark tones and mineral-based pigments; he is one of the great modernist of the last century.

Born in 1899 in Sichuan, Chang Ta-ch'ien was encouraged by his family to pursue painting. Starting with a youthful trip to Kyoto, Japan, to learn Japanese weaving and dying, he later traveled to Shanghai, where he studied with famous calligraphers and painters and began to emulate the traditionalist masters Tang Yin, Chen Hongshou and Shitao; then Beijing, where he was active in cultural circles. A gregarious man, Chang surrounded himself with a large entourage of family, students, friends and admirers; he presented himself as a traditional literatus-artist, adopting long scholar’s robes and a flowing beard. Following the Communist takeover, the artist lived in Argentina, Brazil, the US and, finally, Taiwan, where he settled in 1978 and died in 1983. A lifelong collector, Chang left his large holdings of Chinese paintings from the Tang to the Qing dynasties to the National Palace Museum in Taipei. His own work may be found in the National Palace Museum, Taipei City; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and others.

According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses, the average compound annual return for Chang’s work resold at auction between 2003 and 2017 was 20.8% and 98.5% of 66 such works increased in value.

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Artist Image: 1965 Popperfoto