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Modern (19th century-1945) Graphic Arts
(Beijing, China, February 13, 1921 - April 9, 2013, Nyon, Switzerland)
Zao Wou-Ki was a Chinese-born painter and printmaker who exhibited his works globally, including in Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, and China. He was educated at the China Academy of Art, in Hangzhou, where he studied under Fang Ganmin and Lin Fengmian and learned traditional Chinese and Western painting techniques. In the 1940s, he was inspired by the Early Modernists—Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne—whose work he saw on postcards his uncle brought back from Paris and in reproductions in American magazines.
In 1948, Zao moved to Paris with his wife, composer Xie Jinglan, and became involved with the Lyrical Abstraction movement. (The couple divorced in the mid-1950s.) During his first years in Paris, Zao experimented with lithography and engraving at the workshop of the master printer Edmond Desjobert. He developed his own lithographic technique, which involved using more water than is typical. During this period, his work remained essentially figurative but grew more abstract. He drew on forms from an ancient Chinese alphabet while simultaneously being influenced by the work of his contemporaries, including Pierre Soulages and Paul Klee.
After a trip to New York, where Zao met New York gallerist Samuel Kootz, a champion of the American Abstract Expressionist movement, Zao’s work shifted to large-scale, fully-abstract paintings. He had his first solo exhibition at Kootz Gallery in 1959. In the early seventies, after the death of his second wife, film actress Chan May-Kan, Zao returned to China for the first time. When he returned to Paris, he began to incorporate more India ink into his practice. His works continued to grow in scale, and he is best known for his massive, multi-panel compositions. In 2011, he settled with his third wife, Françoise Marquet (whom he married in 1977), in Dully, Switzerland, where he lived the last two years of his life.
“Biography.” Foundation Zao Wou-Ki, https://www.zaowouki.org/en/the-artist/biography/.