Asian Arts | Exhibitions
 Introduction | Chag Dai-chien: Gallery | Exhibition Details

CHANG DAI-CHIEN BIOGRAPHY

Chang Dai-chien was born on May 10, 1899 in Nei-chiang, Szechwan as Chuan Chi, the ninth child of a wealthy family who had converted to Roman Catholicism. Resisting his family's efforts to push him into a business career, Chang briefly entered a Buddhist monastery before beginning serious study of Chinese calligraphy and painting at the age of 19. After an extended visit to Kyoto, Japan, Chang settled in Shanghai in 1919 to study with prominent artists Tseng Hsi (c.1861-1930) and Li Jui-ching (1867- 1920). In a training method typical among art students in China, Chang made many arduous copies of artistic masterworks, beginning to develop his legendary (and notorious) ability to recreate works from diverse periods.

Because of his family wealth, Chang first entered the Chinese artistic community as an amateur painter and connoisseur. The collapse of several family businesses in 1925 deprived Chang of his income and compelled him to begin selling his art work. His first exhibition of 100 paintings in 1926 was a great success and launched his career. The start of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 began a period of war and revolution that repeatedly disrupted Chang's artistic efforts, forcing him into flight several times. In 1939 he found refuge in the remote desert outpost of Tun-huang, where he spent more than two years copying the legendary murals in the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.

Leaving China in the wake of the Civil War of 1949, Chang sojourned in Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and Argentina before settling in 1954 into a 30-acre compound outside Sao Paolo, Brazil that he named the "Garden of Eight Virtues." Chang continued to exhibit his art in the US and Europe, traveling to Paris in 1956 for a breakthrough show of his paintings at the Musee d'Art Moderne. Chang's meeting with Pablo Picasso during this trip was given considerable attention in the press as a meeting of the masters of Western and Eastern art. A dam construction project in the mid-1960s that would flood his home caused Chang to leave Brazil. California had impressed Chang during his numerous trips to the state, the first of which was in 1954. Chang moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1967, eventually a home in Carmel and another on the scenic 17-mile drive. Chang relocated to Taiwan in 1976, spending the last seven years of his life painting and creating his garden home known as the "Abode of Illusions." He never returned to California after 1979.

In addition to his prized original works, Chang has become equally infamous for his recreations of Chinese masterpieces. His copies span 1,000 years of Chinese art and demonstrate a virtuoso talent for emulating, and even improving upon, the work of painters before him. Today many of these forgeries, still attributed to others, hang alongside Chang originals in museums worldwide. An article in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine on January 19, 1999 examined the controversy surrounding the reputed 10-th century Chinese painting The Riverbank owned by the Metropolitan Museum of New York, believed by some to be Chang forgery.

Chang's artistic legacy is immense, controversial and complicated. Beyond the difficulty posed by a 'life spent in nearly perpetual exile and travel, Chang was a highly social personality who enjoyed his fame and actively contributed to the creation of an heroic persona. As a young artist he adopted the posture of bearded sage, reveling in unconventionality and romanticism, the beginning of a life-long process to create a unique aura that often overshadowed his artistic efforts. The exhibition Chang Dai-chien in California will present an often overlooked element of Chang's legacy, demonstrating his status as a truly global artist.

Asian Arts | Exhibitions
 Introduction | Chag Dai-chien: Gallery | Exhibition Details