(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, B. 1920)
Nuances de l'aube
signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 98' (lower right); titled, signed and dated 'Nuances de l'aube CHU TEH-CHUN 1998'; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm. (51 1/4 x 38 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1998
Private Collection, Europe

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Lot Essay

Chu Teh-Chun, born in 1920 in Hangzhou, graduated from the Hangzhou College of Art in 1941. He stayed on at the college as an assistant tutor before being employed by the Nanjing Central University, where he worked until 1949. Chu then moved to Taipei to teach in the art department of National Taiwan Normal University, and then travelled to France in 1955 to further his education in Paris. A solo exhibition in Paris in 1958 boosted his reputation, and the latter years of the 1950s saw his artistic reputation spread through various exhibitions, and his style develop into abstract expressionistic style. In 1997 Chu was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the pinnacle artistic achievement.
After 60 years of creating abstract art, Chu had made it to the peak of his painting career in the 1990s, having developed a thorough knowledge of both Chinese and Western aesthetics while preserving his national philosophical roots. Nuances de l'aube (Lot 146), painted in 1998, demonstrates the three characteristics of Chu's paintings: calligraphic lines drawn with dexterous strokes, fine organisation of the image, and an emphasis on the richness of layers in terms of colour and source of light. Kandinsky once said: 'When [blue] sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human. When it rises towards white ... its appeal to men grows weaker and more distant K Almost without exception, the colour blue refers to the domain of abstraction and immateriality.' Chu uses this fanciful blue, together with green as the base colour, as if to reproduce the paints made with the natural mineral pigments azurite and malachite green often used in traditional Chinese paintings. The top left is covered with broad strokes of bright blue, semi-translucent, vertical flowing lines, suggesting Chu's pursuit of a relaxed state of mind when creating his works.

Like the well-known Song dynasty painter Wang Ximeng in his layering of blue paints, Chu uses colours to add great diversity, particular in the middle of the image - white, indigo, red, pomegranate, light yellow, emerald green, turquoise, sapphire blue and navy blue. He produces a rich yet delicate layering with his rendering of surging, flashing, weaving colour patches of various sizes. The result is a subtly quivering work with dramatic contrast between light and shade. Lines are 'written' with various calligraphic strokes, demonstrating Chu's strong yet flexible wrist and the vast depth of the calligraphic skill he has accumulated since childhood. The complicated yet harmonious overlapping of oil paints in Nuances de l'aube is a fantastic demonstration of the "close up there are thousands of miles" spirit of Chinese painting.

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