Auction - Sotheby's to put under the hammer 13 Zao Wou-ki works Apr 4

Nu et Tapis Jaunes
The 91-year-old French-Chinese master painter Zao Wou-ki seems to be everywhere. De Sarthe Fine Art opened a show with his works recently in Hong Kong, featuring Zao's works from the 1950s and 1960s. And now, 13 of his works will go under the hammer at Sotheby's on Apr 4 (which seems a bit too much for one sale and could trigger some bidding fatigue).
Born in Beijing in 1921, Zao studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou before moving to Paris in 1948. His early work was heavily influenced by painters like Paul Klee and Othon Friesz, but he shifted towards an abstract approach in the late 50s after spending some time in New York.

Sotheby's will auction five paintings of his “Paul Klee” period, which have not appeared in the market for half a century. These compositions combine a realistic style with a spatial approach. Most representative of the five paintings on offer is Nu et Tapis Jaunes (est. HK$2 - 3.1 million), executed in 1953. This portrait painting harks back to the period of Zao’s artistic growth prior to his departure for France. At the time, Zao had just graduated and painted several portraits of his sisters, his wife and himself to hone his compositional techniques. Most of them were, however, destroyed during the 1960s to 1970s and, therefore, this portrait work is especially prized for its rarity. In Nu et Tapis Jaunes, the protagonist has both her hands raised to ear level, seemingly in a bid to detect sounds from afar. The gesture seems to suggest her recollection of antiquity and her selfless devotion. A yellow carpet, seemingly glittering in golden light, is painted in a single colour tone of varying intensity to provide a multi-textured backdrop.
The late 1950s heralded Zao’s ascension to a new phase in his artistic journey. By then, he had given up the use of signs and allusive symbols to embrace his inner world, in a whole-hearted pursuit of Abstract Expressionism. Executed in 1962, 4.1.62 (est. HK$4 – 6 million) marks his coming of age in this transitional phase. Administering base layers of bronze-green hues on canvas, Zao delineates a barren primeval world, born in the turbulence of the universe’s creation, as evoked in the contrast of colours layered upon each other, to dramatic effect. Swift brushstrokes intersperse with layers of darkened lines to unleash dynamic currents of his emotions.

Pins Landais

 Another masterpiece by Zao is Pins Landais (est. HK$3.2 – 4 million). The title refers to the famous pine trees found in Landes, a province in France, also reputed for its picturesque landscape. Inspired by nature’s beauty, this painting was possibly completed following Zao’s visit to the region. Zao enlivens the composition with shades of red, added in as a contrast to the mass of symbols constructed from black lines.