Wang Zhen (Chinese, 1867–1938)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
78 1/2 x 36 7/8 in. (199.4 x 93.7 cm)
Inscribed by the artist
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986 (1986.267.156)
A successful Shanghai businessman as well as a devout Buddhist, Wang Zhen is best known for his paintings of Buddhist figures in the calligraphic brush manner of his teacher Wu Changshi (18441927). This large-scale work, done one year after his master's death, not only reveals Wang's devotion to Chan (Zen) Buddhism, but may also refer to his role as Wu Changshi's disciple. The painting portrays the legendary Indian sage Bodhidharma and his Chinese disciple Huike, who cut off his arm to demonstrate his religious resolve. Wang's use of rich colors and bold ink dots and slashes in his description of the landscape is typical of his teacher's style; the simplified outlines of his figures, however, may be inspired by the works of such Song- and Yuan-dynasty Chan painters as Liang Kai (active ca. 1200) and Yintuoluo (active ca. 1340), whose paintings Wang could have seen on his business trips to Japan.