Prepared in cooperation with the artist’s estate, Zao Wou-Ki: 1935–2010 features more than three hundred works and is the most complete monograph available on the artist.
Born in Beijing, raised in Shanghai, Zao Wou-Ki (1920–2013) rose to prominence in his adopted France, and was one of the world’s most celebrated artists at the time of his death. Trained in both Western and Chinese painting, Zao’s work bridged both. He became a master when he transcended both vocabularies.
“I wanted to paint differently,” Zao Wou-Ki wrote about leaving China in 1948, and shortly after he landed in Paris, his work took on Western influences: a nude and a portrait of his wife, both 1949, recall Matisse in their subjects, loose style, and use of pattern. In 1951, Zao saw Paul Klee and began creating city scenes and landscapes with a similarly inky, slightly fantastical hand. The Western artists, he said, led him back to China, a statement evidenced in the ideograms and Shang dynasty motifs in his 1956 Stèle pour un ami (Stela for a friend). As Zao moved beyond the West for inspiration, he gradually moved beyond China, too. In doing so, he found his own style. His first abstract painting, Vent (Wind), from 1954, features invented signs and evokes the movement of air without directly representing it. His work continued to evolve, with his experimentation with india ink; his exploration of enormous, multi-panel paintings; his use of bright colors that recall J.M.W. Turner or Franz Kline. His creative maturity lasted for more than half a century, expressed in pictures that marry the lyricism of classical Chinese painting and the expressive force of European modernism, and yet are entirely individual.
Prepared in cooperation with the artist’s estate, Zao Wou-Ki: 1935–2010 features more than three hundred works and is the most complete monograph available on the artist. It highlights his great abstract oil paintings, while also giving due attention to the other facets of his oeuvre, including his student work, his first Matisse- and Klee-influenced canvases, his lithographs and travel notebooks, and his work in watercolors and brush painting. In addition to a penetrating essay by prominent statesman, intellectual, and friend of the artist Dominique de Villepin, the book includes detailed notes on key works, a selective bibliography, a critical anthology, and an illustrated chronology of Zao’s life.