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Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy—Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang

April 29–August 17, 2014

Ming Dynasty Suzhou and the World of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559)

During the sixteenth century, the city of Suzhou was home to many of the empire's greatest poets, calligraphers, painters, and art collectors. At the center of this vibrant scene was Wen Zhengming, a multitalented artist and tastemaker whose skills extended to poetry, calligraphy, painting, and more. Wen Zhengming helped set the tone for this period, and his many followers, including his sons and grandsons, continued his legacy.

As a calligrapher, Wen Zhengming tended toward an understated elegance and respect for tradition. Even his powerful, large-character writing—represented in this room by a poem transcribed in his eighty-fourth year—is marked by fluidity and balance. Wen Zhengming's son Wen Peng shared his father's penchant for elegance—as can be seen in his cursive-script album—but he was also interested in the monumentality of ancient writings on stone. To your left are two works by Wen Zhengming’s student Wang Chong, a calligrapher of great versatility who played an important role in the Suzhou cultural scene prior to his early death.

Selected Artworks