Xiang Zhang (pronounced Shong Zang) grew up in the Sichuan province of China. He was born in the year of the horse (1954), and as a child he loved drawing farm horses with black ink on rice paper. In 1965 came Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which shut out Western culture and closed many schools and universities. Zhang’s father, a chemistry professor, recognized his son’s artistic talent, so he hired an art tutor, smuggled his son into the library to read National Geographic magazines and brought home bones from locked-up science labs so his son could study anatomy.
As a young man, Zhang studied set design at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, where he spent four hours each morning in oil painting classes. The theater element of Zang’s background is evidenced in the dramatic compositions of his paintings, their exaggerated lighting and the way the figures seem to move on the canvas. From his professors, Zhang learned the techniques of the Russian masters, and traveling museum shows from America and Europe provided further Western influence.
Zhang’s mastery of painting earned him a full scholarship to Tulane University in 1986, from which he graduated with an MFA at the top of his class. In New Orleans, Zhang painted jazz musicians and designed sets for the New Orleans Opera House. Zhang moved with his wife and daughter to Dallas in 1993. It was in Texas that Zhang found his true calling of painting cowboys.
Zhang began by visiting ranches to watch cowboys at work. It was his first time seeing real cowboys, and Zhang began to eat lunch with them and get to know them so that he could paint them later in his studio. Some of the ranch owners began to collect Zhang’s paintings, and soon he was being invited to the ranches to observe their activities. Sometimes he would stay for several days, having breakfast at the chuck wagon at 4:30 a.m. and then following the ranch hands throughout their days. He had always loved observing people, and it was wonderful for him to watch people who were so closely connected with horses.
From small paintings of single cowboys to 96″ historically accurate narratives, Zhang commands a mastery of Western painting that is both impressionistic and realistic. Using scintillating colors and bravura brushwork to capture the drama of ranch life, his definitive style has catapulted him to new heights in the art world. He currently lives with his wife in Dallas, Texas, and exhibits in prestigious annual shows such as the Prix de West, The Briscoe Western Art Museum’s Night of Artists and Autry Museum of the American West’s Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale. His work has been featured in Western Traditions: Contemporary Artists of the American West, Art of the West, Southwest Art, Western Art Collector, Fine Art Connoisseur and numerous other publications.