Lot 55
  • 55

Chu Teh-Chun

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Chu Teh-Chun
  • Printemps Hivernal
  • signed in English and in Chinese and dated 1986-1987 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 76 3/4 x 51 1/4 in. 195 x 130 cm.


Acquired by the present owner from the artist


This painting is in excellent condition. Under ultraviolet light, there are no apparent restorations. The canvas is framed in wood, painting black, with a 1 ΒΌ" float and silver trim.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Fluid strokes of paint weave rapturously across the canvas, enveloping the viewer in a whirling blizzard of snow. Chu Teh-Chun’s Printemps Hivernal from 1984 is one of the earliest examples of the painter’s beloved winter landscapes, marking the apotheosis of Chu’s rich fusion of Western abstraction within a distinctly Eastern calligraphic aesthetic. Trained in the highest levels of complex Chinese calligraphy, Chu moved to France in 1955 following his studies at the Hangzhou National College of Art in the 1930s. Intensely drawn to the distinctly European art of Monet, Cézanne, and Matisse, it was France that inspired the artist to shift away from traditional Chinese landscape painting to the stylized abstraction that he is most celebrated for today. Recognized as one of the foremost Chinese painters of the Twentieth Century alongside his Francophile compatriot Zao Wou-Ki, Chu’s lyrical canvas conveys a compelling beauty and profound serenity archetypal of Chinese culture, while also breaking new ground in the gestural expressionism pervading the Western artistic sensibility of the period. Living in France allowed Chu to develop his signature pioneering amalgamation of classical Chinese water color with cross-cultural Western modes of abstraction, exemplified in the present work.

As Hong Kong art critic Lam Tong Lin observed: “[Chu’s painting is] agile and exuberant like the vigorous dance of dragons and snakes, moving freely and winding in shapes that recall the wonders of nature, at the same time capturing emotions to its fullest.” Hues of grey, white, and sky blue harmonically soar over the surface of the picture, evoking the traditional splashing, sprinkling, and dripping characteristic of the intersection between Chinese ink painting and Jackson Pollock’s pour technique. Endowing his treatment of paint with a distinctly Eastern meditative contemplation, Chu skillfully reaches the sublime in Printemps Hivernal—the painting depicts neither the abstract nor the figurative, but rather distills nature into a higher state of mind. Chu garnered international renown upon his inclusion in the 1964 Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh and the 1969 São Paulo Biennial, contemporary surveys that propelled the artist’s pre-eminence within a global landscape of innovative abstract painting.

In 1999, Chu became the first Chinese member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts under the Institut de France, punctuating his significant contribution to both the Chinese and Western European art historical canons. When he was inducted into the Académie in 1999, he gave a speech from which an excerpt might offer a key to deciphering the true essence of 1984’s Printemps Hivernal: “I seek to make visible, through their perpetual mutations, the basic and complementary principles in the philosophy of I Ching. Yang is fiery and bright, whilst Yin is dark and damp. This duality creates a universe of infinite variations that I wish to discuss, combining the brilliant colors inherited from Western paintings and freedom of forms opened up by abstract painters. The only source of inspiration I follow is nature, and its preferred mode of expression is lyricism. The creation comes from pure spontaneity, which means, according to Taoist maxim, ‘to release inner emotions.’ This results in my paintings’ pictorial language where color and design, although they never coincide, move towards the same goal: to awaken the light, shapes and movement.”