Zao Wou-Ki 1921-2013


Zao Wou-ki (born February 13, 1921, Beijing, China - died April 9, 2013, Nyon, Switzerland) was a Chinese-born French artist who fused Western Modernist aesthetics and traditional East Asian techniques to create dynamic paintings that embodied what some observers referred to as "lyrical abstraction".

Wou-ki studied (1935-41) calligraphy and traditional Chinese landscape painting at the Fine Arts School of Hangzhou where he then taught as an assistant professor.

He developed an avid admiration for Post-Impressionism and for European artists such as Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso. Wou-ki moved to Paris in 1948 shortly before the communist takeover of China. In the early 1950s, he began emulating the art of Paul Klee, but within a few years Wou-ki developed his own lyrical style of abstract art, which most evidently comes accross in his bold large-scale paintings.

Although Zao held his first solo show in Paris in 1949, he was not fully appreciated in China until the early 1980s; an exhibition of his work was finally mounted in 1983 at the National Museum of Beijing under the auspices of the Chinese minister of culture.

In Wou-ki's later years, the artist's paintings became highly praised by art collectors in Hong Kong and throughout China. Wou-ki became a french citizen in 1964, and his contribution to the arts in his adopted homeland brought him formal honours as an officer (1984), commander (1993), and grand officer (2006) of the Legion of Honour.


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