Lot 1016
  • 1016

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)

30,000,000 - 40,000,000 HKD
55,640,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
  • 07.04.61
  • signed in Pinyin and Chinese; signed in Pinyin, titled and dated 7.4.61 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 195 by 114 cm.;   76 1/4  by 44 1/4  in.
Samual Kootz Gallery, New York and Galerie de France, Paris labels affixed to the stretcher on the reverse


Kootz Gallery, New York
Important Private American Collection
Galerie de France, Paris
Important Private French Collection
Calmels, Paris, 10 June, 1996, lot 33
Important Private Collection
Christie's, Hong Kong, 26 October, 2003, lot 133
Important Private Asian Collection
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 6 October, 2009, lot 548
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Cambridge, Hayden Gallery, Zao Wou-Ki, 1964
Fukuoka, Fukuoka Art Museum, Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981, 6 - 21 October 1981, pl. 13
Tokyo, Grand Art Gallery, Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981, 13 - 18 November 1981, pl. 13
Fukui, Fukui Prefectural Museum of Art, Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981, 27 February – 22 March 1982, pl. 13
Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981, 30 March – 9 May 1982
Kamakura, The Museum of Modern Art, Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981, 16 May – 20 June 1982, pl. 13
Montauban, Musée Ingres, Zao Wou-Ki, October 1983, pl. 15


Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Edicions Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1978, pl. 298, p. 284 
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Hier et Demain, Paris, 1978, pl. 298, p. 284 
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1979, pl. 298, p. 284 
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 1979, pl. 298, p. 284 
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Cercle d'Art, Paris, 1986, pl. 330, p. 324
Freches José, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Editions Hazan, Paris, 2007, p. 55
Dominique de Villepin, ed., Zao Wou-Ki: Oeuvres 1935-2008, Flammarion, Paris, 2009, p. 138

Catalogue Note

Thriving Vitality and Dynamic Energy
Zao Wou-Ki's 07.04.61

Like Bada Shanren, artist Xu Wei of the Late Ming dynasty also pushed the concept of xieyi into new territories, advocating that painting should not emphasize likeness in form, but should instead pursue a certain rhythm. He introduced a style of ‘wild cursive’ to be used in painting, which was bold and decisive in its brushstrokes, free and unrestrained. Confidently, Xu unleashed his emotions onto the scroll using the ‘ink splash’ technique. In his painting Grapes, for example, his use of the brush is a stormy flurry of abandonment, portraying the grapes as being battered violently in powerful gusts of wind. The grapes are not depicted as plump or glistening fruits, but rather, using the plight of the grapes, the artist gives expression to his own sense of melancholy, bestowing the xieyi scene with the joys and sorrows of life. Xu Wei’s ‘wild cursive’ infuses emotion into the scene, thus largely influencing the development of ink-wash painting. This influence has shuttled through countless centuries and manifested as the spirit in Zao Wou-Ki’s .

In 1959, Zao’s meditations on painting advanced to yet a higher level. He said, "I want to paint what isn’t visible – the breath of life, the wind, the force, the form of life." He gave himself a new challenge: expressing the "abstract" without using any figurative symbols, but through only colours and lines. Although we cannot see the wind, for example, the wind is a real presence; it is a part of nature that can be experienced. But how to express the wind’s vitality? Zao found his answer in the brush and xieyi spirit of "wild cursive".

Upon the grand vertical canvas of , Zao has chosen earth tones – brown, grass green, a dusty yellow – as the dominant colours. Paired with the robust speed of the brush, the background is a space that conveys serenity and a sense of remoteness. In the centre, black lines that strongly invoke a calligraphic style cascade like an unbroken mountain ridge from the top to the bottom, starting from the centre and moving outward. Each stroke and each line possesses its own expression and effect, yet they are connected in energy, flowing smoothly. The forceful power of the lines can be attributed to Zao’s calligraphy foundation. The frenzied, galloping lines are like wild grass, recording the movement and rhythm of the creation; at times, they appear like flashes of lightning and tumbling boulders, and at others, they are light as a needle or the morning dew. The exquisite additions of white and orange, intersecting before the viewer’s eyes, create a moving, mystical scene, as if the artist has captured the breath of the universe, the extreme tension at the creation of the earth, and melded them together under the power of his brush, erupting, bursting forth like the flight of dragons, the galloping of horses. A speed that is impossible to overlook engulfs the viewer. The calligraphic nature and the wild rhythm of the brush emphasized in Chinese xieyi landscape paintings are presented here, in a novel way, right before the viewer’s eyes.

Zao Wou-Ki’s abstract brush fuses together the essence of thousands of years of Chinese xieyi aesthetics with Western media. In this way, his position in the Western movement of Abstract Expressionism can neither be contested nor disturbed. As literary critic François Cheng once said, "Zao Wou-Ki's artistic fate is not merely that of the individual. It is intimately tethered to the many thousand years of evolution of Chinese painting. This fact does not diminish the value of the artist’s personal exploration, but rather, enhances the emotional force of his accomplishments. In reality, when talking about what has been gained from his works, it can be said that the century-long anticipation in Chinese painting can now be put to rest. The symbiosis between East and West that should have occurred long ago has finally appeared for the first time."

07.04.61 was chosen for Zao’s solo exhibition at Hayden Gallery in Cambridge in 1964, causing a stir in the art scene. In 1981, the painting was selected in the touring exhibition “Zao Wou-Ki, Peintures, encres de Chine, 1950-1981” held in several important art museums in Japan. Among the chosen works,  07.04.61 is undoubtedly one of the most representative works spanning the three decades of the artist’s career, a clear testaments to its significance.