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The Sage in Chinese Painting-Wu Daozi

In Chinese ancient art history, three people are revered as sages: the calligrapher Wang XJzhi of the Eestern Jin Dynasty, the poet Du Fu of the Tang Dynasty and the painter Wu Daozi, also of the Tang Dynasty.

Wu’s most prolific period was during the Kaiyuan and Tianbao eras (713-755) in the Tang Dynasty. Born in Yangzhai (Yu County in Henan Province now), Wu lost both his parents at a young age and lived a hard life in his early years. He learned how to make a living from folk painters and sculptors. Because his diligence and talent in art. Wu earned himself a good reputation as a painter by the time he was 20 years old. Emperor Xuanzong invited Wu as an imperial painter in the court, naming him Daoxuan. As an imperial painter, Wu only painted at the emperor’s request, which was a big restriction for a civilian painter. On the other hand, the court provided the best living conditions and was an outlet for artistic creativity.

Wu’s character was unrestrained, direct and indifferent to trivial matters, and is known that he always drank while painting. It is also said that when Wu drew the halo around Buddha’s head in a mural, he used his brushes without drafting the measurements first~ when he was paining at Longxing Temple, the temple was always packed with observers. Wu moved his brush quickly, and most of his works wet accomplished in a single session. Chang’an (present day Xi’an), capital of the Tall Dynasty. was the cultural center of the time where many famous men of letters an artists lived. Wu had many opportunities to stay with them, which helped improve hi painting skills.

Wu mainly created religious murals and his abundant works had a wide range ~1 subjects. According to records, Wu painted over 300 murals and more than 10 scrolls. While many of them involved Buddhism and Taoism, Wu also drew pictures o mountains, rivers, flowers and birds and animals. The Presentation of Buddha is his most representative work. Unlike his predecessor Gu Kaizhi, whose line strokes were slender and forceful but lacked variety, Wu’s strokes were full of change and vlgor, expressing the internal world of his subjects. Wu was always in great ferment when he was painting, and his works exhibit an expressionist style.

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