ZAO WOU-KI (Chinese/French, b. 1921)
    Marches Montantes, 1954
    Oil on masonite
    18 x 15 inches (45.7 x 38.1 cm)
    Signed in Chinese characters and dated lower right
    Signed, titled, and dated verso: ZAO WOU-KI/ Marches Montantes/ III-IV 54
    Inscribed in pen on original stretcher: LE NYC, Ven du Lowy
    Dymo label no. 8 on front of frame lower liner

    Born in Bejing in 1921, Zao Wou-Ki studied at the School of Fine Arts in Hangchow where he later became a professor of drawing. In 1947, Zao moved to Paris where he was influenced by the modern language of Western abstraction. This transitional period in Zao's career, when he first departed from his own traditions and began to embrace Western abstraction, is the most provocative: in works from the late 1940s through early 1950s as we observe him wrestling with conflicting aesthetics and identities. His signature, for example, straddles the east and west. His first name is always signed in Chinese characters and the last name in Western orthograph.

    In 1951 Zao traveled to Bern, Switzerland where he was first exposed to the paintings of Paul Klee (1879-1940), which proved to be highly influential. The present painting, consistent with his early work, is not entirely committed to abstraction, although it gestures in that direction, creating a dialogue between the traditional and the experimental. Thin black lines resolve out of what appears to be a continuum of fog, haze, and clouds - an atmosphere typical of traditional Chinese landscape painting. From these black markings, which were clearly influenced by Klee's draftsmanship, we see rising steps that parallel ancient Chinese architecture. The palette is almost monochromatic gray with only thin applications of blues, yellows and pinks. These subtle fields of color evoke atmospheric effects that are common in Klee's later works.

    Zao would continue to develop more explosive styles of abstraction in the late 1950's. However, this period of his production, during his early thirties when he was attracting attention in American as well as Europe, is justly viewed as the highpoint in the artist's career.

    Condition Report*:

    Four vertical surface scratches along top and bottom edge, two minor losses along left edge, one loss on scratch in left corner, surface grime, otherwise pristine original condition.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2008
    8th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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