Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
- Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
- signed in Chinese and Pinyin and dated 51
- India ink and ink-wash on paper
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
A transparent house is unremarkable. Everything can be passed through; times are changing.
- Henri Michaux
Working in the ethos of Western modernist art during his first few years in Paris, Zao Wou-ki wanted to forge a new artistic language and to free himself from the influence of Chinese painting. As in the cases of Picasso and Giacometti and other great 20th-century artists, Zao began to incorporate features of Primitivism in his human figures. His houses became simplified to the point of being "transparent" as Henri Michaux describes. In 1951, Zao saw the works of Paul Klee for the first time in an art museum in Switzerland. He recalled:
Klee's world is unlike any other. Infused with poetry, his work shows what others cannot see. It is like a bridge connecting to a world of self-exploration, but I saw it as a shortcut to another path.
In the same year, Zao Wou-ki created the highly representative Untitled (Lot 1003), in which the transparent houses of his lithographs reappear but become crisp and sharp. The light ink washes have an archaizing rustic air. In a 'Z'-shaped composition, the "three distances" of traditional Chinese landscape paintings are clearly recognizable. The viewer is taken on a journey through a foreign land, his eye guided from a figure carrying a load to the town and the distant mountains, and finally to the bare branches beyond. In Untitled (Lot 1004), also dating from the early 1950's, Zao Wouki uses fine and subtle brushwork to depict a figure who resembles his wife Xie Linglan, who was a major source of inspiration for the painter before she left him in 1956. The fiure's facial expression and body show the influence of Primitivism. Drawn against a background of delicate watercolour washes, fine interwoven lines express profound affection.