"So prodigious was his virtuosity within the medium of Chinese ink and colour that it seemed he could paint anything. His output spanned a huge range, from archaising works based on the early masters of Chinese painting to the innovations of his late works which connect with the language of Western abstract art."

Chen Jiazi
author of Chang Dai-Chien: The Enigmatic Genius, from the Banshan Feng and Jingyu Tant Collections



Genius of Chang Dai-chien
Documentary film, Format - HD, Length - 30 minutes
by Weimin Zhang

Chang Dai-chien (1899-1983), frequently compared to Picasso because of his eclectic production and charismatic personality, is likely the most famous Chinese painter of the Modern period. 

Project Description:
Genius of Chang Dai-Chien (working title) is a 30-minute documentary that will follow Chang Dai-Chien’s unusual journey from pre-Communist China, to the jungles of Brazil, to the California coast of the 60’s and 70’s.  Along the way it will explore his evolution as a calligraphist (of traditional Chinese guohua), impressionist, expressionist, world-renowned forger and his indelible influence on the contemporary art world.  Incorporating archival footage, vivid depictions of his paintings and recent interviews with scholars and those closest to Chang, the film will address multiple perspectives of this complicated, talented and enigmatic artist.

Treatment and structure:
Continuously weaving archival footage with interviews with Chang’s family and friends, as well as experts who have studied his art, the film will be structured chronologically in three chapters:

  1. Early Life in China (1899-1949) – Chang’s youth mastering the literati styles of black ink and his early success in Shanghai.   The revolution in Chinese painting caused by Chang’s introduction of brilliant color, inspired by his time studying the Buddhist cave paintings in Dunhauang.
  2. East Meets West (1949-1967) – Chang’s flight from China, following the Communist Revolution, and his time in India and Argentina before finally settling for more than a decade in Brazil.  His landmark show as the first Chinese artist to exhibit at the Paris Musée d’Art Moderne.  His pivotal meeting with Picasso in the 1950’s, during which they each exchanged a painting.
  3. Pursuing Beyond (1967-1983) – Chang’s relocation to California’s Monterey Peninsula in the late 60’s, becoming a major figure in the San Francisco Bay art scene.  During this decade, Chang developed a new style of art that was a combination of traditional Chinese calligraphy and abstract painting techniques.