Tradition Transformed: Chang Ku-nien, Master Painter of the 20th Century

January 22 - April 18, 2010

This exhibition features the work of Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987), a versatile and proficient practioner of the ancient tradition of Chinese painting, and explores his development as an artist over a lifetime.

Trained in Shanghai, the versatile Chang resettled in Taiwan after the political upheaval of 1949. This experience compelled him to carry on the tradition of Chinese painting, which was considerably diminished in China during the Cultural Revolution. A member of the fabled Seven Friends Painting Society in Taiwan, Chang responded dynamically to the vitality of his new environment and second homeland, where he freely experimented with new techniques to portray local nature and landscape themes. In his later years, he traveled between Taiwan and the United States and created a highly expressive, personal, and sensitive vision of the landscapes of North America.

Many of the paintings presented here are gifts to the Museum of Art from Dr. Cheng-Yang Chang and his wife, the late Mrs. Shirley Chang, Chang Ku-nien’s son and daughter-in-law, and include monumentally scaled works that can be presented only rarely due to their fragility and size. The exhibition is accompanied by the first publication to be produced by an American museum about the artist’s life and work.

This exhibition is made possible in part by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, the UM Center for Chinese Studies, and the Blakemore Foundation. Additional support was provided by Mary Palmer and the George Dewey and Mary J. Krumrine Endowment.


Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987)
Songbirds in Spring
Framed scroll, ink and color on paper
Collection of Dr. Cheng-Yang Chang

Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987)
Autumn Scene at North Michigan
Framed, ink and color on paper 
Lent by Marcus and Margaret Chao 

Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987)
Roaring Waves along Suhua Road
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Collection of Dr. Cheng-Yang Chang

Chang Ku-nien (1906–1987
Taiwan Cross-Island Highway – section 1
Four hanging scroll as a panel, ink and color on paper
UMMA, Gift of Dr. Cheng-yang and Mrs. Shirley Chang, 2006.1.104.1-4


Exhibition Timeline

FriJan 22
Exhibition Opens
SunApr 18
Exhibition Closes