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Chang Dai-Chen

Exhibition: November 21, 2002 - February 18, 2003
Reception: November 21, 2002


Chang Dai-Chien.

Chang Dai-Chien (1899-1983) is considered to be one of the most versatile and prolific masters of traditional Chinese painting. He was a colorful figure who resembled an ancient Chinese sage. He had a full beard, a walking stick, and always dressed in a full-length robe.

In terms of versatility, he possessed a formidable 'toolbox' of skills and techniques. Chang was trained in painting using the traditional Chinese method of copying the best masterworks of the past. Due to his passion for rigorous training, he eventually mastered the best techniques of the past 1000 years of Chinese painting. In fact, he became so skilled at copying masterworks that few people could distinguish the original masterworks from his copies.



Vermilion Lotuses in a Fishing Village (1978, at age 89, mounted for framing; splashed-ink-color on gold paper, 61.5 x 99 cm)

In his original work, he had his own unique style, a successful synthesis of his own creativity and the styles of past and present Chinese painters. He was one of the few modern masters who truly mastered the 3 perfections of traditional Chinese painting:

  1. Brush Painting
  2. Calligraphy
  3. Poetry

He became world famous when he incorporated Western techniques in his later work. He used an abstract painting technique of splashing ink on his paintings and created a new 'Splashed' ink painting style. Western critics raved about how his new style liberated him from the traditions of China's past and some even dismissed his more traditional Chinese paintings.

Interestingly, his splashed ink painting still retained the classical qualities of traditional Chinese painting such as composition, calligraphy, seals, and even objects painted in the traditional manner. Wang Cha, a painter of the Tang dynasty also had a technique of splashing ink on paintings.

Chang painted 30,000 paintings in his lifetime. 5000 paintings still survive today.


Chang Dai-Chien's philosophy of Chinese painting:

1. Copying The beginner should learn the rules and methods by means of mastering the technique of defining the contour lines.
2. Life Study The painter should understand the nature of his subject, observe its form and attitude, and identify himself with its feelings.

of Ideas

Whether it be human figures, stories, landscape, or flowers, or bamboo, there should be a lofty underlying meaning, however, insignificant the subject may be.
4. Creating the Proper State The painter should strive for new ideas and discard shabby and hack-eyed ones.
5. Seeking after the Sublime The painter should read books, cultivate his nature and remove
himself from what is earthly and vulgar.
6. Style Craving for nobleness of style and dispensing with superfluous brush-work.
7. Vitality Composition to play second fiddle to rhythmic vitality.
8. Spirit Capture the spirit at the expense of appearance, so long as it does not go against the fundamental aesthetic principles.
9. Let the Brush be Relaxed and the Heart be at Ease Let the brush be relaxed and the heart be at ease and guard against showing off one's own talent or giving reins to one's temperament.
10. Metamorphosis While emulating the old masters, one must go through a metamorphosis, instead of resorting to duplicating or pirating.


Chronological Record of Chang Dai-Chien

1899 Born May 19, at Neikiang, Szechwan Province, China.

Attends Ch'iu-ching School in Chungking, Szechwan.

1916 Captured by bandits. Kept as the bandit chief's secretary. Escapes after one hundred days
1917 Joins his brother Shan-tze in Kyoto, Japan. Learns drawing and dyeing.
1919 Goes to Shanghai. Studies with the famous scholar Tseng Hsi. Becomes a novice in a Buddhist monastery at Sungkiang and is given the name Ta-ch'ien. Returns to Szechwan and marries three months later. Returns to Shanghai to study calligraphy with Li Jui-ch'ing.
1920 Li Jui-ch'ing dies. Returns to Szechwan.
1922 Goes back to Shanghai.
1923 Lives with Shan-tze in Sung Kiang Province.
1925 Father dies.
1923 Elected as a member of the Committee of the First National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Nanking.
1930 His teacher, Tseng Hsi, dies.
1931 Journeys to the Huang Shan in Anhwei Province. Appointed as a delegate to the Exhibition in Japan of the Arts of the T'ang, Sung, Yuan, and Ming dynasties.
1932 Settles in Soochow with his brother and their families.
1933 Lives on the shores of Lake K'un-ming near Peiping. Participates in the Paris Exhibition of Chinese Paintings a the Musee du Jeu-de-Paume. The "Lotus" is purchased by the Museum.
1934 Exhibits in Peiping. Visits the Hua Shan in Kiangsu Province and Japan.
1935 Exhibits in Peiping. Visits the Lung-men caves in Honan, Hua Shan and Sian. First show in the Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Paintings at Burlington House, London.
1936 Mother dies. Teaches at Central University, Nanking. Exhibition in Shanghai.
1937 In Peiping, at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, forced to remain in the city by the occupation authorities.
1938 Escapes to Szechwan.
1939 Lives with family in Ch'ing-ch'eng Mountains, near Cheng-tu, Szechwan. Visits Mount Omei and the Chien-men Mountain Pass in Szechwan. Exhibits in Chung King.
1940 His brother, Shan-tze, dies. Visits Tun-huang Caves in Kansu. Remains in Tun-huang for two and a half years copying more than two hundred of the caves' frescoes. Exhibits in Chungking.
1943 Returns to Cheng tu, Szechwan. Exhibits his new works there.
1944 Exhibits copies of cave frescoes in Cheng-tu in January and in Chungking in May. His subjects are published in two volumes with critical studies
1945 Completed "Giant Lotuses", on four panels, and "A Gathering in the West Garden", on eight panels. Exhibitions of his paintings in Cheng Tu.
1946 Visits Peiping. Exhibition in Shanghai. Group of works included in Contemporary Chinese Painting Exhibition at Musee Cernuschi, Paris. Participates in UNESCO Exhibition of Contemporary Painting at Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris; Chinese section later invited to London, Geneva, and Prague.
1947 Exhibits in Shanghai. Twelve of his Tun-huang frescoes published in color.
1948 Travels and exhibits in Hong Kong.
1949 First visit to Taipei, Tawain.
1950 Exhibits in New Delhi and Hyderabad, India. Stays over a year in India, spending three months in the caves of Ajanta. Exhibits in Hong Kong
1952 Moves family to Argentina. Settles in Mendoza. Exhibits paintings in Buenos Aires.
1953 Visits the United States and Taipei. Exhibits his paintings in Taipei. Presents twelve works to the municipality of Paris.

Moves from Mendoza to Mogi, near Sao Paulo, in February.

1955 Publishes five volumes of reproductions from his private collection, entitled 'Materpieces of Chinese Painting in the Colllection of the Ta Feng Hall', in Tokyo. Exhibits in Tokyo.
1956 Exhibits at the Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris. Visits Europe for the first time, staying mainly in Rome and Paris. Exhibits his copies of Tun-huang cave frescoes in Tokyo.
1957 Returns to Sao Paulo by way of Hong Kong and Japan.
1959 Awarded gold medal by the International Council of Fine Arts in New York.
1960 Exhibits recent paintings in the Grande Salle d'Honneur at the National Salon in Paris. Exhibition of thirty of his paintings at the Musee Royald' Art et d' Histoire, Brussels, in May; at the Parnassus Hall in Athens, and at El Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid in November

Exhibits thirty paintings at the Musee Municipal d'Art et D'Histoire, Geneva. Visits St. Moritz and Walensee. Exhibition of "giant Lotuses" at Musee Cernuschi. Museum of Modern Art in New York acquires a Lotus painting. Participates in the Quadricentennial International Art Exhibition in Sao Paulo.


The book, "Chinese Painting, Chang Dai-chien", edited by Kao Ling-mei in Hong Kong is published. Exhibits for the inauguration of the City Hall Museum of Hong Kong.

1963 In October, exhibits in New York, sell his "Giant Lotuses ". Exhibition in Singapore, Kula Lumpur, Iph, and Penang.
1964 Exhibits in Thailand. Lufthansa Airlines sponsors exhibitions in various cities in West Germany.
1965 First one-man show at Grosvenor Gallery in London.

Exhibition in Sao Paulo in April and in Hong Kong in December.

1967 Exhibition in Stanford University Museum in California, Laky Gallery in Carmel, California and National Museum of History in Taipei.
1968 Visits Taipei and Kinmen(Quemoy). Honorary Doctorate degree conferred by the College of the Chinese Culture in Taiwan. Delivers speech on Chinese Art at Princeton University, New Jersey. Paints "The Great Yangtze River". Exhibits in National Museum of History, Taipei, Frank Caro Gallery in New York, S.H. Mori Gallery in Chicago, and Alberts-Langdon Gallery in Boston. Purchases home in Carmel.
1969 Exhibitions in National Palace Museum, Taipei (a special exhibition featuring paintings after the wall paintings at Tun-huang), Cowie Galleries in Los Angeles, New York Cultural Center in New York, St. John's University in New York, Frank Caro Gallery in New York and Alberts-Langdon Gallery in Boston. Family members move to Carmel,

Exhibits in Laky Gallery, Carmel.

1971 Exhibits in Exhibition Hall, City Hall of Hong Kong.
1972 Exhibits in San Francisco, Asian Art Museum.
1974 Paintings exhibited at the Chu-O Fine Arts Museum, Tokyo, under the auspices of the Joint Sino-Japanese Cultural Association of Japan and the National Museum of History, Taipei.

Exhibition of his early period works a the National Museum of History, Taipei. Eighty of his works of thre decades shown in the "Exhibiton of Paintings by Famous Chinese and Western Painters," National Museum of History, Taipei.

Sixty of his works shown in an exhibition of contemporary paintings from the Republic of China at the National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, under the auspices of the Sino-Korean Art Association of Korea and the National Museum of History, Taipei.


Homecoming exhibition of his paintings held at the National Museum of Hsitory, Taipei. During the opening cermonies, presented with a horizontal tablet bearing the four-character inscription "Master Before Arts's Altar" by the Minister of Education, His Excellency, Dr. Tsiang Yen-shih.

The book, "Chang Dai-Chien's Paintings, volume 2," edited and published by the National Museum of Hsitory, Taipei .


Moves to Taiwan.

1981 Begins painting "Panarama of Mount Lu" painting, a monumental painting (6.6 x 33ft) that remains unfinished.



Zhang, Daqian, 'Zhang, Daqian,' Taibei Shi : Zhonghua, 1976, page 127-129

Chang Dai-chien in California (Biography)

The Art and Life of Chang Dai-chien (Biography)

Chang's Philosophy on the art of painting

Interesting Links:

Chinese Chang Dai-Chien Web Site