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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal.
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal. by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

    Fourteen uneven lines alternating between lines of five and lines of two characters, written in a regular-running script. The last line in slightly smaller characters contains the date and signature. From the signature, this is another work by the famous twentieth century artist Zhang Daqian. The signature here is very close to that on the other fan in the collection, and that one has the notation "man of Shu" or Sichuan, the province from which Daqian came. If this fan were to be by Daqian, it would be the latest dated work in the collection, by far. There were other artists with the pen name Daqian, but none of them were from Sichuan. Ultimately, it should be possible to compare this with other works by the artist done near that date to determine its authenticity. The calligraphic style immediately calls to mind the characters of the Song artist Huang Tingjian, who has always been an icon of the expressive possibilities of the brush. The long wavering terminations of strokes that extend beyond the normal bounds of the calligraphy were his trademark. If the date is correct, this would be the work of a younger Daqian, and one could critique the piece by noting that the expressive possibilities of Huang Tingjian's calligraphy are a bit overused here. This artist creates the long terminations whereever possible; Tingjian did it rarely, only for effect. The last line, "To wash one's ears it is not necessary to use the water from a Bodhisattva's spring" is interesting. The meaning, I would guess, is that ordinary water is as good for washing as that blessed by a deity.

  • Thumbnail for Landscape
    Landscape by Zhang Daqian, 1899-1983

    Painted as a "gift painting" for Charles Chu in New Haven, Connecticut.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

    Fourteen uneven lines alternating between lines of five and lines of two characters, written in a regular-running script. The last line in slightly smaller characters contains the date and signature. From the signature, this is another work by the famous twentieth century artist Zhang Daqian. The signature here is very close to that on the other fan in the collection, and that one has the notation "man of Shu" or Sichuan, the province from which Daqian came. If this fan were to be by Daqian, it would be the latest dated work in the collection, by far. There were other artists with the pen name Daqian, but none of them were from Sichuan. Ultimately, it should be possible to compare this with other works by the artist done near that date to determine its authenticity. The calligraphic style immediately calls to mind the characters of the Song artist Huang Tingjian, who has always been an icon of the expressive possibilities of the brush. The long wavering terminations of strokes that extend beyond the normal bounds of the calligraphy were his trademark. If the date is correct, this would be the work of a younger Daqian, and one could critique the piece by noting that the expressive possibilities of Huang Tingjian's calligraphy are a bit overused here. This artist creates the long terminations whereever possible; Tingjian did it rarely, only for effect. The last line, "To wash one's ears it is not necessary to use the water from a Bodhisattva's spring" is interesting. The meaning, I would guess, is that ordinary water is as good for washing as that blessed by a deity.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scene from the Red Cliff
    Fan painting - Scene from the Red Cliff by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

    A scene of excursion by boat to the Red Cliff, illustrating the two odes on the Red Cliff. The cliff overrarches the boat and passengers, as in an innovative use of restrictions of the fan format. Zhang Daqian became one of the best-known Chinese artists of the twentieth century, and was an international figure. He lived and worked in Shanghai before 1949, and then in California, Brazil and Taiwan. He was a person of great talent who understood the entire tradition of Chinese painting, and is perhaps responsible for creating a part of that tradition through his imitations and fakes. There is an immense body of literature on his life and work, and finding how this fan fits into his development should be an interesting study. The identification of this fan rests on both the name Daqian as well as the fact that he identifies himself as "a man of Shu (Shuren)" or Sichuan. If this is indeed by Zhang Daqian, and the assessment of the entire collection as being primarily nineteenth century is correct, this would need be a very early painting by this master, done perhaps around 1920. The final word on the authenticity of the work must wait for a study of other documented early paintings, and how the style, signature and seal of this one fits in with those others (also see fan #30, dated 1930). The scene of the excursion by boat to the Red Cliff, illustrating the two odes on the Red Cliff by Su Shi or Su Dongpo, has been painted by artists over the centuries, and is one of the most popular themes in the repertoire of literati artists. The composition, with the cliff overarching the boat and passengers, is an innovative use of the restrictions of the fan format. The cliffs are painted with energy and skill, and they are continued by the pine trees that reach down from the very top of the fan. The rushes at the left counter and control the strong leftward movement of the cliffs and pines, and act as to move the boat gently into the middle ground. The painting and composition continue the compositional freshness found in the Shanghai school with a brush energy found in many early twentieth century painters.