Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) casts a long shadow over the modern history of Chinese painting. As a painter, he was known for his singular ability to mix traditional techniques and styles with contemporary ideas and currents. As a collector, he accumulated important examples from all genres of Chinese painting and left behind copious seals and inscriptions. As a forger, Zhang so mastered the art of deception that his fakes were purchased unwittingly by nearly every major art museum in the United States—the MFA included. Indeed, the first question asked by experts when a work is considered suspect is: “Could this be by Zhang Daqian?”
This exhibition focuses on all three facets of Zhang’s career and features a rich selection of works from the MFA alongside loans from private collections. Of particular interest is a master forgery acquired by the Museum in 1957 as an authentic work of the tenth century. The painting, which was allegedly a landscape by the Five Dynasties period master Guan Tong, is one of Zhang’s most ambitious forgeries and serves to illustrate both his skill and his audacity.