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Bada Shanren (1626-1705)

Lotus and Birds, Zhu Da, Qing Dynasty, China, Shanghai Museum

Lotus and Birds, Zhu Da, Qing Dynasty, China, Shanghai Museum

Chinese artist Bada Shanren (1626-1705) was born into a branch of the Ming dynasty imperial family that was known for its literary and artistic accomplishments. When the dynasty fell in 1644, Bada fled Nanchang and took refuge in a Buddhist temple, where he remained as a monk for 30 years, painting and writing calligraphy under a variety of Buddhist names — Xeuge, Chuanqi, Ren'an, Fajue, and Geshan. In the early 1680s the artist returned to secular life, married briefly, and took to landscape painting under the name Bada Shanren, becoming one of the most prominent individualist painters of the early Qing dynasty.

His deceptively simple works have an idiosyncratic visual vocabulary full of personal symbolism and artistic gesture. While his spontaneous, almost abstract brushwork may appear playful, many of his paintings also reveal a troubled psychological edge to his character, and his works continue to exert a powerful influence on many modern Chinese painters.

Bada Shanrens work is widely published. One book that specializes on him is 'In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony' by Joseph Chang and Qianshen Bai that was published in 2003 by Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, which reproduces 33 of his works in color.

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