Zhang Xuan

Zhang Xuan

Chinese artist of the 8th century AD
Country: China

  1. Biography of Zhang Xuan
  2. Artistic Style and Legacy

Biography of Zhang Xuan

Zhang Xuan, a Chinese artist of the 8th century AD, is known for his remarkable works that greatly influenced the development of Chinese art. Born in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China, Zhang Xuan actively created art from 714 to 742, although the exact dates of his birth and death remain unknown. Despite the limited historical records about Zhang Xuan, it is evident that he was one of the greatest artists of his time.

Zhang Xuan is particularly renowned for his elegant depictions of women and young noblemen, often seen riding horses or relaxing in lavishly decorated gardens. Although he was conservative in many aspects, Zhang Xuan was not afraid to use vibrant colors and pigments in his artworks. His most productive period coincided with the enlightened era of Emperor Xuanzong, who actively patronized artists and creators. Zhang Xuan was fortunate to be one of the many artists favored by this wise ruler.

Artistic Style and Legacy

During this period, a new trend emerged in China – silk paintings portraying beautiful women. It quickly became apparent that Zhang Xuan and another master, Zhou Fang, excelled in this style. However, reliable historical information about Zhang Xuan is scarce. Historian Zhang Yanyuan, for instance, characterized Zhang Xuan's art with a single sentence: "Zhang Xuan loved to paint women and children." Another prominent historian, Zhu Jingxuan, provided a more detailed review of Zhang Xuan's talent, praising his meticulous attention to detail. Interestingly, despite the positive feedback, Zhu Jingxuan ranked Zhang Xuan in the second category on his own three-tier talent assessment scale.

Today, historians and art enthusiasts mainly know Zhang Xuan through surviving copies of his works, executed by the renowned master-illustrator and less-talented emperor, Huizong. Unfortunately, fully appreciating Zhang Xuan's talent through these copies is challenging because they bear the stylistic imprint of the copyist. Although Huizong likely preserved the overall composition accurately, the drawing style seems to differ. Nevertheless, Zhang Xuan was undeniably one of the key artists of the Tang Dynasty, whose works greatly influenced many artists in the following years, including the aforementioned Zhou Fang. Without Zhang Xuan's influence, Zhou Fang's unique style would have likely been completely different. Eventually, Zhou Fang earned the reputation as the greatest artist of the Tang Dynasty, while Zhang Xuan was unjustly forgotten. However, the passage of time restored historical justice, and grateful descendants once again spoke of Zhang Xuan's contributions to the art world.