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Asian Art
Artist: Wu Changshuo, Chinese, 1844–1927

Calligraphy in Stone Drum Script (Shiguwen)

late 19th–early 20th century

Handscroll: ink on paper

with mounting: 13 in. (33.02 cm) without mounting: 12 1/2 × 52 3/4 in. (31.75 × 133.99 cm)
Collection of H. Christopher Luce, B.A. 1972
2018.78.11
Born in a small town in Zhejiang Province, Wu Changshuo began writing poems and carving seals by the age of ten. As an adult, he studied and practiced Stone Drum inscriptions, and through his talent became the first president of the Xiling Seal Society. At this time, he and others sought to understand the origins of writing seen on bronze vessels and stone monuments and to “recapture the antiquity” and authenticity they so much admired. Wu’s favorite writing style, Stone Drum script, was based on ten granite boulders carved during the Qin dynasty, the crucial intermediary from bronze script to small seal script, and between ancient and modern writing. His excellence at calligraphy derived from his expertise in seal carving, an art requiring fine manual dexterity and a keen sense of composition. Nevertheless, his approach also added creativity to the process, avoiding imitation by mixing modern gestures with earlier styles. Wu’s hand is felt, strongly guiding the crude, lively, and unruly forms, which seem about to crawl out of the orderly grid in which they have been temporarily confined. Stretching and expanding the shapes in idiosyncratic ways, Wu refashioned his quirky characters to make them art.
Geography: 
China
Culture: 
Chinese
Period: 
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Classification: 
Calligraphy
Provenance: 

H. Christopher Luce, New York; gifted in 2017 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/bulletin/Pub-Bull-acquisitions-2018.pdf (accessed December 1, 2018).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.