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Great Painter and Engraver of Sea Painting School: Wu Changshuo


In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and early years of the Republic of China (1912-1949), the last painting school in modern Chinese painting history, the Sea Painting School, emerged, with Wu Changshuo as its representative. A famous calligrapher, painter and seal cutter, Wu not only summarized his predecessor's art heritages but also had his own unique opinion towards art.

A native ofAnji,ZhejiangProvinceofEast China, Wu (1844-1927) had a poor childhood and developed interests in seal cutting under the guidance of his father. Due to the famine in his hometown, Wu experienced five years of vagrancy since the age of 17. Returning home, Wu taught himself poetry, calligraphy and seal cutting. Later, he founded theXiling Seal-cutting Societyand was elected president. At 29 Wu learned about the famous calligraphic works and paintings of his predecessors in Suzhou; in his 30s he learned to paint from Ren Bonian; and from his 30s to 50s, his artistic achievement reached its peak, and Wu finally became a master of art.

He once learned regular script from Yan Lugong in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), official script from stone inscriptions of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), seal characters from Shigu Wenand running hand from Huang Tingjian and Wang Duo.

Wu Changshuo achieved the highest standard inXie Yi(free-style) flower painting, using a style greatly influenced by Xu Wei and Ba Da. Due to his solid grounding in seal cutting, Wu introduced the technique of using burin and calligraphy to his painting, creating a distinct style. Wu painted the plum blossom and orchid in a similar way to writing seal characters and painted grapes like wild cursive handwriting. Thus Wu's paintings were considered magnificent and novel. As to the composition of his paintings, Wu was especially fond of the (zhi)pattern and (nu)pattern. Like Zhao Zhiqian, Wu preferred to use bright colors, especially carmine.

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