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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Zao Wou Ki looking at Claude Monet

Between tradition and modernism

A world-renowned artist, originally from China, who arrived in France in 1947 and naturalized in 1964, Zao Wou-Ki has always paid tribute to the artists and movements who inspired him in his long career. Trained at the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts where he became an assistant professor after obtaining his diploma, he very early freed himself from the imposed curriculum to experiment with oil painting, influenced by Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso.

Between tradition and modernism

In 1948, Zao left China for Paris and settled in the artists' district, in Montparnasse, renting a studio next to that of a certain Alberto Giacometti. It was also at this time that he met another painter who would become his friend: Pierre Soulages.

In this new environment, Zao Wou-Ki gradually moves away from figurative art towards abstraction, multiplying the sources of inspiration. Among them, there is Claude Monet, the impressionist, to whom he dedicated this magnificent triptych created in 1991 and exhibited in Deauville.

art expert,
Hommage à Claude Monet – Février à juin 1991

" Zao Wou-Ki said  : to paint, you have to look at the painting of others. And one of the paintings that he looked at a lot was that of Monet. And in this painting which is a tribute to Claude Monet, he really rooted in Impressionism. He himself said (…) that he wanted to paint space, light, movement. So many realities that we find in Monet ", explains Gilles Chazal, curator of the exhibition, honorary director of the Petit Palais, Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Paris.


But this exhibition goes further by exploring the artistic freedom of Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013) through the diversity of visual and intellectual expressions that he explored throughout his life. " This exhibition is not a retrospective, it is not the whole of Zao Wou-Ki's artistic creation, it is rather the last twenty years, showing all the supports he was able to use, porcelain , painting, ink, or even tapestry, and then there are books because he illustrated a lot of poems ,” adds Gilles Chazal.

Also note the exceptional loan of one of the artist's monumental works: a sixteen-meter-long fresco, commissioned by the State for the L'Herminier college in La Seyne-sur-Mer. The exhibition is certified by the Normandy Impressionist 2024 festival which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Impressionism. It is part of the Franco-Chinese Year of Cultural Tourism aimed at promoting and strengthening cultural and tourist links between France and China.

art expert,
Zao Wou-Ki Juin—Octobre 1985 (1985) 10m x 2.80m


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