Chang Ta-ch'ien (10 May 1899-), painter and dilettante, gained an international reputation for both his paintings in several classical styles and for his copies of the Tunhuang cave paintings in Kansu. A native of Neichiang, Szechwan, Chang Ta-ch'ien was one of the eight children of Chang Huai-chung and Tseng Yi, herself a painter. Chang had his first painting lessons from his mother and by the age of 1 2 was already skilled in making flower, figure, and landscape studies. He received his early education in Chinese classics from his elder sister until her death in 1911. In that year the Chang family was in official disfavor because of the anti- Manchu revolutionary activities of Chang's elder brother, Chang Shan-tzu. Later, Chang Shan-tzu was involved in the 1915-16 movement against Yuan Shih-k'ai, but eventually abandoned politics for painting and became noted for his studies of tigers. Chang Ta-ch'ien's younger brother Chang Chun-shou was also a painter.
In 1914 Chang Ta-ch'ien was sent to the middle school at Hsuching, where he remained until 1916. By his own account, he was kidnapped by bandits in that year, was held for ransom, escaped, and made his way to Shanghai, where he arrived in December 1916. In April 1917 he went to Kyoto to live with his brother Chang Shan-tzu. There Chang Ta-ch'ien learned the art of painting on textiles. Chang Ta-ch'ien returned to Shanghai in 1919 and became a pupil of the scholar Tseng Hsi. Then he entered a Buddhist monastery at Sungkiang where the abbot, Yi-lin, a poetcalligrapher-painter, gave Chang the name of Ta-ch'ien, which he retained after his period of monastic seclusion was ended. He then returned to Szechwan and married. Then, on the advice of Tseng Hsi, he returned to Shanghai to study under Li Jui-ch'ing (1867-1920), a painter who also taught him seal-style calligraphy. When Li died, Chang went to Szechwan where he remained until the death of his father in 1925. During this period he made a deep study of the work of the two seventeenth-century monk painters, Shih T'ao (1630-C.1707; Tao Ch'i) and Pa-ta Shan-jen (1626-C.1705; Chu Ta), both of whom had a lasting influence on his own painting. In 1926, Chang made his home in Shanghai. The next year he began to travel extensively through China, visiting the mountains, lakes, and gorges which had inspired the great Chinese masters of the past.
In 1929 Chang Ta-ch'ien was elected to the selection committee of the National Exhibition of Fine Arts held at Nanking under the auspices of the ministry of education and organized by the Cantonese painter Kao Chien-fu (Kao Lun, q.v.). Chang and his brother Chang Shan-tzu were sent to Japan as official delegates to an important exhibition of classical Chinese painting held in Tokyo. In the following year Chang moved to an old house in Soochow and amused himself for a period with horticulture and in keeping monkeys and a pet tiger. By 1933 he had moved to Peking. In that year his work attracted notice when it was included in a large exhibition of Chinese painting held at the Musee du Jeu de Paume in Paris.
In the spring of 1934 Chang held a successful exhibition at Nanking. In the autumn he climbed the famous Hua Shan with his brother, and in December he returned to Japan. He visited the Lung Men caves in 1935 and held an exhibition at Peking in September. In 1936 he went to Nanking to teach in the art department of National Central University under Hsu Pei-hung (q.v.), and he held an exhibition in Shanghai which added considerably to his reputation. In 1937 Chang returned to Peking. On 7 July, the day of the Marco Polo Bridge incident, he was arrested by the Japanese, but was released on parole after a week's confinement. In 1938 he escaped from Peking and returned to Szechwan. The next year he spent visiting places in west China which were famous for their beauty, including O-mei Shan and Ching-cheng Shan. In 1940 Chang Ta-ch'ien went to the Tunhuang caves in Kansu province. He was so impressed by the Buddhist frescoes that he organized a band of helpers; in the next two years they made more than two hundred copies of the wall paintings in the caves. In 1943 he held an exhibition of his own paintings in Chengtu, and in January 1944 he showed the copies made at Tunhuang, going on to Chungking with them in May. They caused widespread interest, for it was the first time the general public was able to form an impression of the old Buddhist masterpieces. Reproductions of his copies were printed with critical introductions. In 1945 Chang held another exhibition in Chengtu, and in 1946 he returned to Peking. In the same year the UNESCO exhibition of contemporary painting was held in Paris at the Musee d'Art Moderne, and 12 of Chang's works were included in the Chinese section. The exhibition toured London, Geneva, and Prague. In November 1946 and in May 1947 Chang held exhibitions in Shanghai. In 1948 he went to Hong Kong where he held an exhibition before leaving for Taipei.
In January 1950, Chang was invited by the All-India Fine Arts and Crafts Society to hold an exhibition in New Delhi. Another exhibition was held in Hyderabad in May, and Chang stayed in India for the rest of the year, spending three months studying the frescoes in the Ajanta caves. He then returned to Hong Kong, but in 1952 he left for Argentina with his family. By 1953 he was traveling once more, first to the -United States, where he held an exhibition at the China Institute in New York in September, and then on to Taiwan to visit the collection of ancient paintings belonging to the former imperial palace collection. In 1954 Chang moved his home to Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1955 he went to Tokyo, where four volumes of reproductions of old paintings from his personal collection were published. While there, he held an exhibition of his own works. In January 1956, Chang made his first trip to Europe, visiting Rome and Paris. In June and July he held an exhibition of his paintings in Paris at the Musee d'art Moderne. Afterwards he was the guest of Pablo Picasso at his villa, La Californie, in the south of France. Chang also showed some of the old paintings from his collection in an exhibition at the Musee Cernuschi in Paris. He returned to Brazil by way of Asia in 1957. In 1961 he visited Paris a second time, and he was interviewed by Andre Masson, with whom he discussed the principles of Chinese painting.
It is difficult to estimate what Chang Tach'ien's place in the history of Chinese painting will be. He was an eclectic and prolific painter, but the bulk of his work remains in private collections and is not generally accessible to the public. In his interview with Masson, Chang said that "the goal and aspiration of every Chinese painter is to be able to express with his hand that which is in his spirit." His own command of ink and brush certainly qualified him in the first sense, although his creations were scarcely original in content—he followed implicitly the well-trodden paths of the Chinese masters. To the Western observer there is something disconcerting about the facility with which Chang turned from painting landscapes identical in brushwork and subject with the masters of the southern 'school to making studies which were based directly on the Tunhuang frescoes. He was admired by some for his paintings of women, which show the strong influence of his Tunhuang phase, but his most representative works are landscapes and large, bold renderings of lotus and other flowers.
Chang's famous collection of old Chinese paintings were his constant inspiration and guide. Indeed there are several apocryphal stories concerning his ability to make copies of the masters which are indistinguishable from the originals, even by Chang. Nevertheless, Chang Ta-ch'ien commands a healthy respect among his own people for the manner in which he perpetuated the spirit and tradition of the artist's vision according to classical Chinese precepts. Chang was a restless, ebullient character with a long beard which he wore in the style of the old Chinese sages. He was reputed to be a connoisseur of wine and women. In China he always employed special cooks, whose reputations were enhanced by working for the artistgourmet. Chang Ta-ch'ien was one of the last examples of the traditional Chinese romantic artist, and he consistently accepted this role in both his work and his life.
张大千四川内江人，父亲张怀中，母亲曾怡也是画家。他有兄弟姐妹八 人。张大千最初从母学画，十二岁时已善画花卉、人物和风景。他最初从长姊 学中国典籍，直到她1911年去世为止。那年，张大千一家处境不佳，因为他的 长兄张善孖从事反满革命运动。张善孖后来又参加过1915-1916年反袁运动， 但最后脱离政治，从事绘画，以画虎知名。张大千的幼弟张春寿(译音)也是 画家。
1914年，张大千到叙州进中学，直到1916年，据他本人记述，他在那年曾 被土匪绑架勒索赎金，幸得逃脱，于1916年12月到上海。1917年4月，去日本 京都和他的长兄张善孖住在一起，他在京都学了在织物上的绘画艺术。
1919年张大千回上海当学者曾熙的学生。不久，他进了松江的一个寺庙， 那里的方丈怡灵(译音)是一个诗人，兼擅书画，给他取名为大千。张大千在 寺庙舍生期满回四川结了婚。后又经曾熙之劝去上海就学于画家李瑞清（1867 -1920),兼从李学篆刻。李死，他又回四川一直住到1925年他父亲去世。在 此期间，他潜心学十七世纪的两个禅家画师石涛(1630-1707）、八大山人 (1626—1705)的画法，他们的画风对张大千的绘画影响极深。1926年他在上 海住家，第二年，他开始游历那些曾使古代名画家从中获得灵感的名山大川。
1929年，张大千任在南京举行的全国美术展览会征选委员，这个展览会是 由教育部主持，广东画家高剑父筹办的。以后张大千和他长兄张善孖以官方代 表身份去日本参加在东京举办的中国古代画展。第二年，张大千迁往苏州的一 所古旧住宅居住，种花、养猴，还养了一只虎，借以自娱。1933年迁居北京。 这一年，他的作品选入巴黎手工艺术博物馆中国画展展出，引起了人们的注意。
1934年春，他在南京举办了一次相当成功的个人画展。同年秋，他和他兄弟游览华山，12月去日本。1935年他游览龙门石窟，9月在北京举办了一次展 览会。1936年他去南京国立中央大学美术系教书，系主任是徐悲鸿。当年他 在上海主办画展，其个人声誉大为增高。
1937年他回北京。7月7日芦沟桥事变时期，张大千被日军逮捕，监禁* 周后释放。1938年他逃离北京回四川，第二年他遍游华西名胜，其中包括峨眉 山和青城山。
1940年，张大千去甘肃敦煌龛窟，他对那里的佛教壁画大为欣赏，随机组 织了一批助手，两年之中临摹了二百多幅壁画。1943年他在成都举行个人画 展，又在1944年1月展出敦煌壁画临摹本，5月，他带着展品去重庆。这些展 品引起了广泛重视，因为人们第一次对古代佛教艺术杰作有了认识。他的敦煌 临摹作品印影出版，并附有导言。1945年，张大千在成都又一次举行展览会。
1946年回北京。同年联合国教科文组织在巴黎近代艺术宫举行现代画展，张大千的十二幅画选入中国画馆展出。这个展览会又在伦敦、日内瓦、布拉格巡回 展出。1946年11月，1947年5月，张大千先后在上海举行展览会。1948年去香 港，在他去台湾之前，还在香港举行过一次展览会。
1950年1月，张大千由全印工艺美术协会遨请去新德里举行展览会，5月 又在海德拉巴举行展览会。他留在印度直到年底，曾以三个月时间去阿旃陀观 摩壁画。他回香港后于1952年全家迁往阿根廷。1953年又去美国，9月在纽约 中国学院举办一次展览。接着又去台湾参观故宫收藏的古代绘画。1954年，张 大千全家迁往巴西圣保罗。1955年，张大千去日本东京，他个人收藏的古代绘 画的影印本四卷在东京出版，并在那里举行了一次个人画展。1956年1月，他 第一次去欧洲，游历了罗马、巴黎。6月7月间在巴黎近代美术宫举行个人画 展,不久，毕加索请张大千到他在法国南部的别墅作客。他在巴黎森纽赛博物 馆展出了几幅他私人的古代藏画。1957年他经亚洲回巴西，1961年第二次访问 巴黎，会见安德里•马松，与之探讨中国绘画的原理。
评价张大千在中国绘画史上的地位是困难的。他是一个具有多方面兴趣而 又多产的画家，但是他的大量作品为私人所藏，一般人难以见到。他和马松的 接谈中说到：“每一个中国画家的目标和抱负是通过手来表达出内心感情”。 虽然他总是精细地遵循中国大师们已开创的道路，很少有自己的创新，但是他 运用色彩和画笔的技巧无疑是第一流的。张大千从承袭南派大师画风景画的笔 法，转为绘画敦煌壁画风格的画，这种转变是什么原因引起的，西方人士感到 困感。他的仕女画很受人赞赏，那是反映了他临摹敦煌壁画的强烈影响。但是 他的代表作却是风景画和奔放潇洒的荷花等花卉画。
张大千收藏古代绘画名作，他常从此得到启发和借鉴。据说他临摹名家的 作品和原作一模一样，甚至他本人也难识别。张大千遵循中国古代格言，保持 艺术家的精神和传统，因此，为很多人所崇敬。
张大千是个不知疲倦，热情奔放的人。他留着一把古代哲人的长胡子。他 以品尝名酒和鉴赏美女的行家知名。在国内时，他经常雇有专门厨师，这些厨 师往往因替这个饕餮的艺术家服务抬高了身价。张大千是最后一批中国传统的 浪漫派画家之一，这在他的生活和作品中一贯表现出来。