(ZHU DEQUN, French/Chinese, 1920-2014)
No. 221
signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 66' (lower right); titled, signed and dated 'No. 221 CHU TEH-CHUN 1966' ; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
73.4 x 116 cm. (28 7/8 x 45 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1966
Private Collection, Asia
This work will be included in the forthcoming Chu Teh-Chun Catalogue
Raisonné in preparation by Ching-Chao Chu and Yvon Chu

Lot Essay

In 1954, in preparation of his first large-scale exhibition at Zhongshan Hall in Taipei, Chu Teh-Chun went to the Pashien Mountain to sketch the landscapes, which sparked his interest in Chinese ink and wash painting again. He realized that "Chinese literati painters were the first to sense the beauty of clouds and mist and the only ones who managed to express such beauty in the form of painting. In the western history of art, the cloud only serves as background and rarely appears as major aesthetic object. However, Chinese painters focused on its endless variations. The cloud and mist in Pashien Mountain reminded me of an early master in literati painting of the Tang Dynasty, Wang Wei, also known as Poem Budda. He once wrote that 'Among thousands of towering mountains cloud pervades the air, blurring the boundary between the heaven and earth, leafy trees thriving yet appearing dimmed and blinded, and apes calling yet remain unseen.' The virtual-real comparison created by the haze in Pashien Mountain intrigued Chu Teh-Chun's interest in abstract painting, which was reflected in his work No. 221 (Lot 2) commissioned in 1966: the diluted paint appears in ample layers to present a transparent feeling of rising cloud and mist in Chinese painting.
After he moved to Paris in 1956, Chu Teh-Chun was introduced to a style of painting by Nicolas de Staël's which was figurative from a distance yet in fact composed by abstract combination of colour blocks and lines. Such style bore similarities of style with Wu Guanzhong's landscape and traditional Chinese scholar rocks paintings. It abandoned the realistic description of the subject matter and only kept the form of lines to create an abstract beauty. Since then, rather than simply imitating the natural landscape, Chu Teh-Chun started to focus on the observation of nature so as to extract pure and refined elements. He used colours to build the shape and volume and the abstract lines to produce extraordinary visual effect in his later works. In the 1960s, Chu Teh-Chun moved in to the studio provided by the Culture Administration of France and began to paint large-scale works. In the beginning, he bound two 12cm wide brushes together to paint. And later he ordered a 25cm wide brush in order to paint in a cursive style. In his work No. 221 commissioned in 1966, this "liberated brushstroke" enabled him to use dark brown paint to sketch with woven lines and variant colour shades to convey a mellow yet rough feeling through the brush.
No. 221 demonstrates Chu Teh-Chun's thriving creativity in the mid 1960s. Compared with the aesthetic achievement accomplished in Contemplating upon an Autumn Landscape by Zhang Daqian, which shared the same lineage with the majestic and sumptuous Gold-blue landscape painting of Li Ssu-hs?n in the Early Tang Dynasty, Chu Teh-Chun's No. 221 not only rivals the artistic conception of Zhang Daqian's work, but also acquires a more impressive quality of blending effect which gives the painting a restrained grace. Throughout Chu Teh-Chun's works in the middle of 1960s, he tried to maintain a concise style in terms of colour yet emphasise the composition and innovation of artistic expression. Accordingly, most of his works during that period of time were based in sole-colour and composed by prompt and forceful lines with wide brush, in order to elevate the previous realistic concept of "painting" to the abstract concept of "writing". Therefore, Chu Teh-Chun's works of this period of time hold extra historic significance. Not only did they mark an important artistic breakthrough in the artist's career, it also saw his maturity as an artist and was a preface to his later artistic achievement.

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