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Founding Father of Zhe School: Dai Jin

Having first emerged in Zhejiang Province and surrounding areas, the Zhe School of Landscape Painting was very popular in the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Influenced by such famous painters as Li Tang, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the
Zhe School formed its own bold and unconstrained style. Dai Jin, a famous painter of the time, was the founding father of the school.

Dai (1388-1462), a native of Qiantang (Hangzhou) in Zhejiang Province, was born into a poor family. Dai was a carpenter as a young man, and his handicrafts, such as hairpins, statues, flowers and birds were held in high esteem in the neighborhood. Later, Dai began to learn painting and landed a painting job in the court but was soon excluded by other officials. Dai returned to Hangzhou and made a living selling his paintings. Most his artistic activities were non-governmental.

Dai specialized in landscape painting, as well as figures and animals. He devoted himself to learning how to paint even as a young boy. Having extensively imitated paintings of his predecessors, Dai had a good grounding in traditional painting. Meanwhile, he was not restrained by tradition and developed his own style, using easy and smooth strokes. Dai followed in the footsteps of Ma Yuan and Xia Gui of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), as well as Li Cheng and Fan Kuan of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) in landscape painting. Dai's subjects were mainly gods, historical stories, celebrities and hermits. He was adept in representing the dignified manner of gods, intrepidity of ghosts and monsters, as well as color filling clothes. Dai used iron-hard line drawings and orchid-leaf line drawings to draw clothing. Flowers and fruits in his paintings were also splendid. Gong Bi (executed with a fine, delicate brushwork) and Xie Yi (free-style) were Dai's two major works.

Dai's oeuvres were regarded as classics in the mid-Ming, and his style had a great influence on many of his followers, such as his son Dai Quan, his son-in-law Wang Shixiang, Xia Zhi, Xia Qui, Fang Yue, Zhong Ang, Wu Wei, Zhang Lu, Jiang Song, Wang Zao, etc. Dai's painting style was once quite popular and his influence in the Jiangsu and Zhejiang province area was enormous. As the founding father of the Zhe School, Dai was highly regarded and respected by the people.

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