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Zao Wou-ki (Biography), 1921-2013

Sans titre

  • Medium: Etching/aquatint
  • Year: 1978
  • Size: 410x510mm

edition size: 99 (85/99)
year: 1978
signature: lower right in pencil

Price: €8000,00 Add to cart

Biography

Zao Wou-Ki was a Chinese-French painter. He was a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Zao studied calligraphy in his childhood and, from 1935 to 1941, painting at the school of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. In 1948, he went with his wife Lan-lan, a composer, to Paris to live on the same block in Montparnasse where the classes of Émile Othon Friesz took place. His earliest exhibitions in France were met with praise from Joan Miró and Picasso.

Zao and his wife pursued their own careers, their son having stayed in China with his Zao's parents. In the mid-1950s, they were divorced. In 1957, Zao decided to visit the United States where his younger brother Chao Wu-Wai was living in Montclair, New Jersey, close to the art scene of New York City. He wanted to learn more about "pop art". While in the US, he painted seven canvases at his brother’s house. There are relatively few items dating from that year (1957). Years later, the largest canvas was given by his brother, Chao Wu-Wai, to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

He left the U.S. after a six week stay, traveling to Tokyo and then to Hong Kong, where he met his future wife Zhu Ying, a movie star with two young children. She later became a sculptor who received admiring and critical praise. She committed suicide at the height of her career.

Zao's works, influenced by Paul Klee, are orientated to abstraction. He names them with the date in which he finishes them, and in them, masses of colours appear to materialise a creating world, like a big bang, where light structures the canvas. He worked formats in triptychs and diptychs. While his work was stylistically similar to the Abstract Expressionists whom he met while travelling in New York, he was influenced by Impressionism. Zao Wou-ki stated that he had been influenced by the works of Matisse, Picasso and Cézanne.

His meetings with Henri Michaux pushed him to review his Indian ink techniques, always based in Chinese traditional drawings. Zao was a member of the Académie des beaux-arts, and was considered to have been one of the most successful Chinese painters during his lifetime.

His auction record of HK$68,980,000 (US$8,863,930) was set at Sotheby's, Hong-Kong, on 3 October 2011.

Former French President Jacques Chirac was offered a painting by Zao Wu Ki by his ministers during their last meeting. By the end of his life Zao had stopped producing new paintings due to health problems. He died on 9 April 2013 at his home in Switzerland.

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