Born in Nanjing, China, Zhang’s artistic training began at age nine. From the beginning, it was obvious the young man was an outstanding talent. As a top student in his mid-teens, the artist was accepted to the Central Art Academy Affiliated High School in Beijing. After graduation, however, the Cultural Revolution closed the schools. At this point, Zhang was sent with his class to do forced labor for four years in a remote countryside of China. Returning to Beijing in 1973, the talented artist became the youngest member of the Beijing Art Academy. In 1979, Zhang was, again, the youngest member ever elected to the All China Artists Association. Leading the "Scar” art movement, an important, artistic period in China exposing the painful memories of the Cultural Revolution, three of Zhang’s paintings were acquired for the Chinese National Art Gallery’s permanent collection. In 1984, the artist was accepted to the highly acclaimed and selective MFA program at the Central Art Academy.
In 1985, Zhang came to America to continue his study in art and was represented by New York’s Grand Central Gallery. The artist participated in the gallery’s acclaimed 1986 show, Realism from China, the first exhibit to introduce Chinese oil painting to the Western world.
Zhang continued painting in the realism tradition, but also expanded his subjects from Tibetan to a wide range including Chinese and American historical paintings and contemporary American subject matter. The talented young man developed a passion for historical painting at an early age. Envisioning scenes of struggles between the good and the bad, these works helped satisfy his romantic feeling for the distant past. The artist is well known for his large-scale, epic, historical paintings; two early titles are "Farewell, Premier Zhou” and "Before the Long March.”
Coming to America had a profound impact on the artist’s great success with gallery shows. The market for his large-scale historical paintings took more time. However, Zhang knew his time had come when he was contacted by the National Geographic Society to create historical paintings about China. Four of these paintings are included in the Society’s permanent collection. Returning to his ancestral roots to create these works, Zhang introduced the glory of China’s ancient civilization to the world. The artist incorporates his Asian spirit and many youthful dreams in his paintings today. His works are often complex scenes with dramatic movement and orchestration in a symphonic presentation of life.
Zhang’s works have appeared in many publications including National Geographic, Fine Art Connoisseur, and Artist magazines. He also taught for several years at the New York Academy of Art and at the Woodstock ( New York) School of Art. The artist and his wife, Lois Woolley, co-wrote The Yin Yang of Painting, which presents his unique artistic approach and style for oil painting.
Painting from memories of a sometimes tumultuous past that bring forth an amazing talent to create stories for today’s world, Zhang knows he has come full circle. Join this artistic storyteller on his unique journey.