Lot 1020
  • 1020

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
  • Il neige
  • signed in Chinese and Pinyin
  • oil on canvas
  • 33 by 41 cm.;   13 by 16 1/8  in.
executed in 1952


Important Private French Collection
Galerie Bérès, Paris
Galerie Sépia, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Paris, Galerie nationale du Jue de Paume, Zao Wou-Ki, 14 October - 7 December 2003, p.72
Hong Kong, Galerie Sépia, Art HK - Hong Kong International Art Fair, 26 - 29 May 2011

Catalogue Note

The Impressive Record of a European Journey

Zao Wou-Ki Il neige

Early in Zao Wou-Ki’s years in France, the artist devoted himself to gaining an understanding of Western culture and civilization. Between 1951 and 1952, the artist placed most of his energies into travel. In 1951, he ventured to Bern, Geneva, Tuscany, Rome, Pompeii, Naples, and Ischia. His travels continued into the following year, when he travelled around Spain. This long period of travel exposed him to new stimuli – from the Roman ruins, the gems of the Renaissance, to the original works of Paul Klee – in vital and important ways. Of course, he also saw the European landscape, a vastly different sight from the terrain of the artist’s home. Together, these foreign elements made a striking impression on the artist, and they became a reference point for him as he gazed back upon Chinese culture and Chinese art.

In the publication about Il neige (Lot 1020), the painting is recorded as having been completed in November of 1952, right at the end of Zao Wou-Ki’s travels, a time when Zao must have just gathered his thoughts and been able to fully project his inspiration and experiences upon the canvas. This painting depicts the beauty and leisure of a small, remote town. Robust and sharp ink-black brushstrokes cut across the canvas like the carvings of a blade, portraying a far, bird’s eye view. The silhouettes of the buildings are layered and penetrate each other, from the towering church in the upper left corner to the rows upon rows of buildings extending to the distance in the right. The space in the front row depicts the harmonious interaction of people and animals, with birds flying across the row, pecking at food, chasing one another. One person is taking a dog for a stroll. This scene exudes the relaxed and natural joys.

In this work, the artist has harnessed the inspiration springing from the ancient treasures of both East and West and infused it into his creation of contemporary art. The spatial structure of Il neige borrow elements of Han dynasty relief carvings as well as the ancient Roman fresco treatment of space, creating an effect that allows the viewer’s eyes to make contact with the painting at any point, with no beginning or end, encouraging a free and indulgent roaming over the canvas. It is interesting to note that in the small window in the direct centre of the painting, the artist has placed a triangle, striking in appearance. When compared with the artist’s 1953 painting Chargement d’un cargo, one discovers the same red triangle appearing in the chimney of the boat. The triangle seems almost to be a kind of symbol, a mark representing the painter’s distant travels.