Bold enigmas

You could be forgiven for thinking that some of the work by Chinese artist Zhu Da, better known as Bada Shanren, is by a contemporary artist. Born in 1626, Bada Shanren is remembered as reclusive and somewhat eccentric. He produced highly individualist works which were daring for their time, some of which have been brought together for the exhibition Enigmas: The Art of Bada Shanren, at Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art.

The artist,who was born a prince of the Ming imperial house, later retired to live a secluded life as a Buddhist monk. It is said that he suffered from epilepsy and became dumb. The direct, expressive style of his ink paintings of birds and flowers does not jar with contemporary viewers. His work has been very influential in China but also in Japan, where his bold style is particularly appreciated for its similarity to Zen painting.

To continue reading about Bada Shanren, check out the July/August 2015 issue of The Kurios.

Photo: Lotus, Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (1626-1705). China, Qing dynasty, ca. 1665. Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, donated in their memory by Mr. Shao F. Wang. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian.