Xia Chang (Chinese, 1388–1470)
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
80 1/4 x 23 1/2 in. (203.8 x 59.7 cm)
Inscribed by the artist (lower right): "Done by the Free and Easy Retired Scholar [Zizai jushi]; by Qian Bo (active mid-15th century; upper right), dated 1460; by Liu Jue (1410–1472; upper left), dated 1470
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1989 (1989.235.1)
Bamboo, which bends without breaking, was a symbol of integrity and strength. It was also a favorite subject of Ming and Qing scholar-painters. Xia Chang, a native of the Suzhou region, enjoyed a successful official career that led to his appointment, in 1457, as minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices. He expanded Wang Fu's (13621416) style of bamboo painting to become the leading bamboo painter of his time, famous at home and as far away as Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Applying calligraphy techniques to painting according to the precepts established by Zhao Mengfu (12541322), Xia Chang executed his bamboo stalks in the archaic seal-script style, and his bamboo twigs in the "grass," or cursive-script, style. Xia Chang's calligraphic mode of bamboo painting was followed by many later Ming and Qing painters.