1899 - 1983
Zhang Daqian was one of the most versatile and prolific artists in the modern history of Chinese painting. In 1971, after he moved to Pebble Beach, California, Zhang embraced certain currents of international art. He also tried some new techniques, as these experiments with lithography attest. Among Zhang's newfound American patrons were Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Fountain, who encouraged Zhang to learn lithography. In August 1973, W. B. Fountain commissioned Zhang to make a set of five lithographs, for which the artist designed three landscapes, a lotus, and a persimmon branch. Working at a printing studio in San Francisco, Zhang completed this set in ten days. The prints were in such demand that W. B. Fountain commissioned another set in autumn 1974. This time Zhang created two compositions of landscapes, one of lotus, one of peonies, one of a gibbon, and one of birds and flowers. The wide distribution of Zhang's lithographs enhanced his international recognition.
Although sophisticated polychrome woodblock prints were popular in Ming dynasty China, lithography is a Western invention and was entirely new to Zhang. At the first, Zhang was enthusiastic about learning the technique; ultimately, the complications and need for special materials and collaborators made the effort too cumbersome, and his second set of lithographs, which lack the vibrancy and immediacy of this first set, was his last.
The fruit of persimmon has very positive cultural connotation in Chinese culture, and is often depicted in art works and literature. It symbolise plenteousness because it ripens in autumn, the season for harvest. It is also a pun in Chinese for the words 'things' and 'matters', and is often depicted in art works together with pine trees, or the 'lingzhi' herb to express wishes for smoothness in everything. It represents brightness, soft and warm feelings. Painters like to paint them probably because of their bright colour.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2012.