Monday, June 1, 2015

Zhang Daqian, Mist at Dawn

Zhang Daqian, Mist at Dawn, 1974

Zhang Daqian of Chang Dai-Chen (1899-1983) was one of the most celebrated Chinese artists of the twentieth century.  Born to a family of artists, Zhang studied textile dyeing in Kyoto, Japan before returning to China, living and working in Shanghai.  After also selling paintings in Beijing, he was selected to help copy the centuries-old Buddhist paintings in Dunghuang's caves. Zhang became such a skilled copyist, that his forgeries are often indistinguishable from thousand year old pieces.  Regarded as one of greatest master forgers of the century, any scholar examining a Chinese painting, particularly of the "bird and flower genre" or those attributed to the tenth century painter Guan Tong, must always consider the possibility that it is a Zhang forgery.  It has been speculated that many major museum collections of Chinese art contain undetected Zhang forgeries.  In 1949, Zhang left China due to the political climate and traveled extensively, spending significant time in Argentina, Brazil, and California, before settling in Taiwan.  His 1956 meeting with Picasso in France is considered one of the greatest meetings of Eastern and Western art. Zhang was originally a traditionalist, but his eyesight began to fail him in the fifties and he developed his pocai style of splashed color.  He used the technique effectively for subjects from landscapes to flowers to create a type of expressionism unique to him.  Mist at Dawn is a beautiful example of Zhang's expressionism.  The shapes are loose and the bold splashes of color create a disjointed landscape, where discrete elements come together to realize recognizable forms.  The intensity of the color and beauty of the scene demonstrate that Zhang was one of the great artistic geniuses.

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