Fred Fangyu Wang (1913 – 1997) was a Chinese calligrapher, art collector, and a Professor of Chinese at Yale University and Seton Hall University. He was born in Beijing in 1913, and emigrated to the United States in 1945.
As a collector, Wang was one of the most prominent modern Bada Shanren scholars. Together with his wife, Wang assembled the largest and most important private collection of Bada’s works in the world. In 1998, Wang Fangyu’s family gave a large number of paintings and works of calligraphy by Chinese artist Bada Shanren (1626 – 1705) to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art.
As a calligrapher, Wang Fangyu found the practice of mastering past traditions constraining. Beyond his conventional education and traditional training lay the seeds of inspiration that spawned his own new and unique form of calligraphy. New, yet not so new: his calligraphy was based on traditional expertise but also “modernized,’ in part to tweak the traditionalists of which he himself was certainly one. In the process, he created an innovative body of work entitled Dancing Ink.
Dancing Ink combined his academic prowess with artistic verve. Based on his perception of the “five principles of nature” (unity, change, balance, force, and motion) and inspired by his scholarship and collection of works by the seventeenth-century painter Bada Shanren, Wang Fangyu unleashed a creative inner energy resulting in his calligraphy.