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Copyright
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Red Trees, Blue Mountains

Accession Number
2006/1.135

Title
Red Trees, Blue Mountains

Artist(s)
Chang Ku-nien

Object Creation Date
1975

Medium & Support
ink and color on paper

Dimensions
27 15/16 in x 53 3/4 in (71 cm x 136.6 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Cheng-Yang and Mrs. Shirley Chang

Label copy
Gallery Rotation Fall 2013
Chang Ku-nien
China, 1906–1987
Red Trees, Blue Mountains
1975
Ink and color on paper
Gift of Dr. Cheng-Yang and Mrs. Shirley Chang, 2006/1.135
Chang Ku-nien painted this scene about a year after he moved from Taiwan to Flint, Michigan. The inscription indicates it was a gift for his son and daughter. In the United States Chang seems to have been liberated from the idioms of traditional Chinese painting and his brushwork became more spontaneous, open, and fluid. In this painting, he combines both old and new techniques. A figure with a staff walking towards the misty landscape evokes a recluse, an important subject in the centuries-long Chinese literati (amateur scholar-artist) tradition in which Chang was trained. The mountains in the upper left corner and on the middle right side are painted in the “boneless” style, that is, without obvious outlines—a practice that may be traced back to late Ming dynasty (1368–1644) painting. Chang’s use of color, however, is quite modern. Here a brilliant sapphire that he began to use in the 1970s gives the mountains and pine trees a palpable sense of chilliness.
Chang Ku-nien
Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987) was a member of the last generation of artists trained in the centuries-old tradition of Chinese literati (amateur scholar-artist) painting. Over nearly a century of dramatic change, he practiced and creatively adapted this tradition in political and social circumstances never imagined by his literati ancestors. Chang was born in mainland China in the last years of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), but in 1911 an armed revolution ended two millennia of imperial rule, ushering in the modern age and decades of political upheaval. He grew up in the sophisticated port city of Shanghai, where he trained as an artist and received a classical education. After the Communist takeover of 1949, he fled to Taiwan, where he was instrumental in the revival of the practice of traditional Chinese painting that had languished under the cultural influence of Japan during the years of occupation.
Chang Ku-nien was both a preserver and a transformer of this tradition. Many of his contemporaries harbored a nostalgia for China and restricted themselves to canonical views of important mainland scenes or the invented landscapes valued in literati painting. Chang, however, responded dynamically to his new environment by freely experimenting with techniques and innovative subject matter, becoming one of only a handful of mainland painters from his generation to explore the scenery of Taiwan using the methods of traditional Chinese ink painting. In 1974 he emigrated to Michigan, where he carried on his efforts to maintain the erudite tradition of Chinese painting, searching out scenic sites to paint and recording his responses to them.
Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Cheng-Yang and Mrs. Shirley Chang, UMMA has an extensive collection of works by Chang Ku-nien. Since paintings on silk and paper may be exposed to light for only a few months at a time, visitors are invited to return throughout the year to see new works from this collection.

Subject matter
Chang Ku-Nien painted this scene about a year after he moved from Taiwan to Flint, Michigan. The inscription indicates it was a gift for his son and daughter. In the United States Chang seems to have been liberated from the idioms of traditional Chinese painting and his brushwork became more spontaneous, open and fluid. In this painting, he combines both old and new techniques. A figure with a staff walking towards the misty landscape evokes a recluse, an important subject in the centuries-long Chinese literati (amateur scholar-artist) tradition in which Chang was trained. The mountains in the upper left corner and on the middle right side are painted in the “boneless” style, that is, without obvious outlines—a practice that may be traced back to late Ming dynasty [dates] painting. Chang’s use of color, however, is quite modern. Here a brilliant sapphire that he began to use in the 1970s gives the mountains and pine trees a palpable sense of chilliness.

Physical Description
Landscape colored with the bright hues of autumn. Pavilions are nestled among clouds and mountain forests. A rustic staircase appears between wisps of clouds and trees, winding up the slope next to waterfalls.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Additional Object Classification(s)
Painting

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
ink
landscapes (environments)
mountains
trees

2 Related Resources

Ink and Realisms
(Part of: Artist Associations and Art Movements)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved