Traditional Chinese Paintings by Contemporary Legend Chang Dai-Chien

Chang Dai-Chien (1899-1983) was one of the most legendary Chinese painters in the 20th century. (Screenshot from Secret China)
Chang Dai-Chien (1899-1983) was one of the most legendary Chinese painters in the 20th century. (Screenshot from Secret China)

Chang Dai-Chien (1899-1983) was a traditional Chinese painter from Neijiang City, Sichuan Province. He was one of the most legendary Chinese painters in the 20th century. He was an expert in painting, calligraphy, seal carving, and poetry. In his later years, he combined colors with ink painting and created his own style.

From 1941 to 1943, Chang went to the Mogao Grottoes and the Yulin Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, to observe the cave paintings there. He returned home after he made 276 copies of the paintings.

Chang Dai-Chien

Chang’s painting of Shakyamuni preaching in Dunhuang. (Screenshot from Secret China)

Chang Dai-Chien

Chang’s painting of Shakyamuni preaching in Dunhuang. (Screenshot from Secret China)

Chang Dai-Chien

Chang’s painting of Shakyamuni preaching in Dunhuang. (Screenshot from Secret China)

Chang Dai-Chien

‘Copy of the Auspicious Celestial Maiden from Tang Dynasty’  (Screenshot from Secret China)

‘Copy of the Auspicious Celestial Maiden from Tang Dynasty’ above is a painting Chang copied from the 5 foot tall painting ‘Auspicious Celestial Maiden,’” first painted during the Wudai Period (907-960) in the Yulin Grottoes.

Chang’s career as an artist peaked during his trip to Dunhuang. His style switched from the gentle Confucian style that was popular during the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties to the glorious, solemn, and sacred Buddhist art popular during the North Wei, Sui, and Tang dynasties. ‘Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’ was one of Chang’s masterpieces during this period.

Chang Dai-Chien

Painting entitled ‘Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’. (Screenshot from Secret China)

In ‘Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’ painting above, the Bodhisattva appears as a man. His figure is well-built, his face plump and smooth, his eyebrows are curvy, and his eyes are thin. A light circles his head. He wears a necklace around his fringed collar, armlet, and tassels. His bare feet stand on two different colored lotus flowers.

Chang’s paintings of ladies

In the 1920s and 1930s, Chang met artists who specialized in Beijing Opera and Sichuan Opera. He felt that the ancient costumes and makeup used on a woman’s face were the most beautiful. Hence, when he painted a woman’s face, he inherited the Three-White style from the Tang Dynasty, and left the forehead, nose and chin blank. The rosy cheeks then allowed the contour of the face to stand out. This is one of the major designations in his paintings of women.

Chang Dai-Chien

Painting entitled ‘Bodhisattva with a Fish Basket’. (Screenshot from Secret China)

In ‘Bodhisattva with a Fish Basket’ painting above, Chang used heavy coloring. The drawing is very neat and the outlines are very precise, smooth, and delicate. This is one of Chang’s masterpieces created after his return from Dunhuang.

Chang Dai-Chien

Copy of Liuru Jushi’s Painting of Lady from Tang Dynasty. (Screenshot from Secret China)

The face of the woman in ‘Copy of Liuru Jushi’s Painting of Lady from Tang Dynasty’ above is painted in the Three-White style, and her lips are colored using cinnabar. It looks natural and real. The pattern of the draping skirt is in the style of the Tang Dynasty. The colors were brilliant and the drawing sophisticated.

Original sources: SecretChina1, SecretChina2, SecretChina3, and Secret China4

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