Bada Shanren (also known as Zhu Da or Chu Ta) is my favorite fine artist. He lived from the mid to late 17th century in China, but his work always looks to me like it was painted last night. There is something fresh, shocking and balanced about virtually all his ink paintings. He had a strange, tragic life and is sometimes thought of as the Chinese Van Gogh because of it. I first came to know of him while perusing the book shop in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York about 15 years ago. As I flipped through Master of the Lotus Garden every page was like a punch in the stomach – the economy of line, the humor of subject matter, the risk and danger and confidence in his compositions – which defy reason and yet maintain such perfect balance between presence and absence, here and there. I got the impression of the artist running at full speed on top of a very high fence and never falling, in fact skipping and laughing all the way across. Even now, whenever I flip through the book I’m caught off-guard and still amazed by it. I’ve shared this book with other artist friends over the past few years, and none has had the same emotional reaction I had, so maybe I’m nuts; but I cherish this book anyway, almost at times as if it were a joke that only the artist and I understand. There isn’t a whole heck of a lot out there on the Internet about Bada Shanren, and very few books – mostly the two by Wang Fanyu
A brief bio
A link to some sample paintings
An image search – some good thumbnails to give an idea of his composition sense.