Zao Wou-ki was born in Beijing in 1920. He entered the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 14, where he learned traditional Chinese painting before being appointed professor in 1941. The same year, he presented his first exhibition, which clearly showed his interest in Matisse and the Blue Period of Pablo Picasso.

In 1948, Zao Wou-Ki moves to Paris where he learns engraving and lithography. His first creations inspired a series of poems by Henri Michaux. From 1950, the discovery of Paul Klee’s painting marks a decisive turning point in his career. In 1953, Zao Wou-Ki abandons figurative art to turn to abstraction. His canvases evoke a kind of “landscape”, a boundless space served by deeply shimmering areas of colour. Zao Wou-Ki scratches in certain areas, models masses with bumpy accents, or draws violently dynamic lines.

His exceptional mastery of color nuances contributes to the deep psychological intensity that emanates from his art: they evoke both the world of chaos and dream, nothingness and matter. In the course of his career, Zao Wou-Ki has also produced illustrations for books by Rimbaud, René Char and André Malraux.

Zao Wou-ki’s production offers a synthesis between Far Eastern pictorial traditions and Western abstract painting.