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Zao Wou-Ki

A master of post-war art and among the highest-selling Chinese painters of his generation, Zao Wou-Ki synthesized tenets of modernism, calligraphy, and traditional Chinese landscape painting. Using primarily oil paint, watercolor, and—eventually—ink, Zao developed a unique style defined by contrasting colors, intense linework, and lyrical abstraction. Like traditional Chinese landscapes, Zao’s paintings function as fragments of larger scenes and possess a fluidity, transparency, and graceful luminosity that reflect the interior energies of the artist himself. Zao cited Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso as early influences. In 1948, he moved to Paris, where he immersed himself in the city’s avant-garde scene and befriended artists including Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, and Sam Francis. During his lifetime, Zao exhibited worldwide. He received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale Award for Painting and the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur. Today, his work can be found in the collections of the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Tate, among many others, and has sold for more than $65 million on the secondary market.

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