Zao Wou-Ki | Sans titre, entre août et décembre 1958 無題，1958年8月至12月
1920 - 2013
Sans titre, entre août et décembre 1958
oil on canvas
signed Wou-ki in Chinese and Zao in Chinese, dated 58 (lower right); signed Zao Wou-ki in Pinyin and dated 1958 on the reverse
painted in 1958
81 by 76 cm; 32 by 30 in.
The authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.
A certificate of authenticity may be delivered by the Foundation upon request by the buyer.
1920 - 2013
ZAO WOU-KI 1958（畫背）
81 x 76 cm; 32 x 30 in.
Galerie de France, Paris
Morgan Knott Collection, Dallas
Private collection, Dallas (acquired in 1995 and sold: Sotheby's Paris, 4 December 2019, Lot 17)
Private Asian Collection (acquired from the above)
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona / Editions Hier et Demain, Paris, 1978, plate 276, illustrated p. 281
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 1979, plate 276, illustrated p. 281
Jean Leymarie, ed., Zao Wou-Ki, Éditions Cercle d'Art, Barcelona / Paris, 1986, plate 308, illustrated p. 321
Françoise Marquet-Zao, Yann Hendgen, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures Zao Wou-Ki, Volume I, 1935-1958, Paris, 2019, plate P-0542, illustrated in color p. 254, 326
〈趙無極〉Jean Leymarie編（巴塞隆納，Ediciones Polígrafa／巴黎， Editions Hier et Demain，一九七八年），圖版276，281頁，附圖
〈趙無極〉Jean Leymarie編（紐約， Rizzoli國際出版，一九七九年），圖版276，281頁，附圖
〈趙無極〉Jean Leymarie編（巴塞隆納／巴黎，Cercle d’Art，一九八六年），圖版308，321頁，附圖
Zao Wou-Ki’s Oracle-Bone Period marked the artist’s groundbreaking transition into pure abstraction. Enlightened by the oracle bones and bronze artefacts from the Chinese Shang dynasty (c. 1600-1050 BCE), Zao broke free from the constraints of figurative and narrative elements in his paintings and entered a boundless state of artistic freedom. This shift echoed the wave of abstractionist movements that swept the globe post-World War II. The Oracle-Bone Period found its inspiration in archaic artefacts as Zao incorporated elements of time and space in his creation, tracing the origins of the universe. Sans titre, entre août et décembre 1958 is compact in its composition, lyrical yet steeped in mystery. Fine prints of script stretch across the canvas in spirited strokes, resembling the enigmatic characters inscribed on ancient oracle bones and ritualistic musical instruments; they also evoke the sublime landscapes that have long ago dissipated into the winding rivers of history. In such a powerful composition, each stroke appears as if carved in stone. This feature is not without precedent as similar elements can be observed in the artist’s 1995 work Debut d'Octobre, as well as his 1956 work Stèle pour un ami, now part of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart collection. At the time he was working on the present painting, Zao had been reading the classic TaoTeChing, and in his work the concepts of yin and yang would be expansively illustrated through the use of colours. Black and white are in philosophical juxtaposition, with patches of earthy ochre and strokes of delicate indigo to highlight the composition. Black, white, red and blue would become the four dominant tones of the Oracle-Bone Period.
The present lot, Sans titre, entre août et décembre 1958, was created in 1958, when Zao was making a name for himself in the United States. Acutely conscious of his identity as an artist from China, he was determined to achieve a prominent place in the flourishing art scene in North America. Underlining this pivotal moment for Zao’s career, in that same year he painted Abstraction, which remained in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago for half a century. Abstraction was sold at auction by Sotheby’s Beijing in 2013 for 89.68 million RMB (US$13.27 million), breaking the artist’s world record. Embodying Zao’s inimitable artistic accomplishment in the Oracle-Bone Period, the present lot Sans titre, entre août et décembre 1958 has been in the collection of a private collector in Dallas for decades.