Artist: Zhang Daqian (Chinese, 1899–1983)
Date: dated 1965
Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions: Image: 23 3/4 x 37 3/4 in. (60.3 x 95.9 cm)
Overall with knobs: 67 3/4 x 47 1/8 in. (172.1 x 119.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Accession Number: 1986.267.361
After 1949 Zhang Daqian lived in Hong Kong and India before building residences in Brazil, California, and Taiwan. His long residency outside China inevitably brought him into contact with modern Western art, including Abstract Expressionism. This work, painted with intense mineral colors and broad washes of layered ink, may represent Zhang's response to these influences.
Zhang maintained that such works, which he first made in Europe in 1956, derived from the "broken-ink" techniques of random splashing and soaking used by Tang-dynasty (618-906) artists, but it seems more likely that Western abstract art encouraged him to develop the Japanese technique of splashed colors that he had used in earlier works. He welcomed the liberating effect of this painting mode, which gave a spontaneity to his compositions. In spite of their abstract qualities, however, these paintings remain resolutely descriptive of the natural world. Here, Zhang applied ink and color in a seemingly random manner, then added contour lines and other details that transform the composition into a highly suggestive vision of storm—engulfed mountains illuminated by a burst of sunlight that has turned the somber clouds iridescent.