“..throughout his life, and in whatever style, he seems to have always been more comfortable on paper than canvas, especially as his canvases grew larger” - New York Times
Painted in 1951, just three years after leaving his native China, an early example of work by Zao Wou-Ki will be offered at Freeman’s Modern & Contemporary Art auction this December.
An admired artist—who struggled with awe-inspiring results to reconcile Eastern and Western thoughts and aesthetics—was trained at the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts under Lin Fengmian. In 1949, he made Paris his second home, learned of Abstract Expressionism, and was also embraced by fellow artists Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró and Paul Klee. Zao’s best-known mature style, dubbed the epitome of “lyrical abstractionism,” melds this contemporary Western abstraction with the gentle execution of Eastern art that is grounded deeply in landscape and calligraphy. Hinting only slightly at the aesthetic evolution to come, his untitled work is rare, painted in the ink-wash and calligraphic style of his Chinese heritage, and set in a decidedly Western setting.
Zao’s delicately rendered landscape with its scripted dedication reveals a genuine love and respect for nature. Roughly translated it reads: “People who grow up in the mountain areas love mountains, people who draw mountains love people who grow up in the mountain areas.” For now, a touch of the unknowable is another fascinating component of this work because the dedication likewise indicates that it was a gift for a person or place which, unfortunately, is illegible in the text.
Zao Wou-Ki (1921-2013), Untitled [Assisi]. Chinese ink and wash on paper. Signed and dated ’51, inscribed “Assisi” bottom right and dedicated in Chinese bottom center. Sold for $110,500 on 12/06/16.