Mastering the Art of Chinese Painting: Xie Zhiliu (1910–1997)

February 6–August 1, 2010

Wild Cursive Calligraphy

In the 1930s and 1940s, Xie Zhiliu (1910–1997) drew heavily on the work of Chen Hongshou (1599–1652), not only copying his paintings but faithfully transcribing his inscriptions as well. Indeed, Chen's calligraphy, with its elongated characters and bony, angular brushwork, shaped Xie's earliest writing style. However, as Xie's vision deteriorated in the late 1960s, he embraced the bolder calligraphic styles of Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), Huaisu (725–ca. 799), and Zhang Xu (act. ca. 700–750), practicing their running and wild cursive scripts in addition to writing scholarly essays on their work. Xie was particularly interested in Zhang Xu, and his copy of Zhang's masterpiece, written in the wild cursive style, is on display. (Xie appended his own poems to this work, as well as transcriptions of various connoisseurs' comments.) He approached Huaisu's calligraphy differently: rather than make a tracing copy of the whole of Huaisu's celebrated Autobiography, Xie selectively imitated individual characters that most interested him. In this instance, he worked from a rubbing of the text, as he did not have access to the original.