CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)
Important Private Collection, Asia
CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)

L'espoir est né (Hope is Born)

CHU TEH-CHUN (1920-2014)
L'espoir est né (Hope is Born)
signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU THE-CHUN 91' (lower right); signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU THE-CHUN 1991 L'espoir est né' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
180 x 230 cm. (70 7/8 x 90 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1991
Important Private Collection, Asia
Artist Publishing Co., Overseas Chinese Fine Arts Series II: Chu Teh-Chun, Taipei, Taiwan, 1999 (illustrated, p. 213).
National Museum of History Thin Chang Co., Chu Teh-Chun, Taipei, Taiwan, 2008 (illustrated, p. 154).
Taipei, Taiwan, National Museum of History Thin Chang Co., Chu Teh-Chun: 88 Retrospective, 2008.
Sale room notice
Please note that the correct title of Lot 61 is L'espoir est né (Hope is Born).
The work is signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 91' (lower right); signed in Chinese; signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN 1991 L'espoir est né' (on the reverse).

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Lot Essay

"In A Casual Essay on Landscape Painting, Guo Xi in 1050 wrote that a painter must first undergo many years of meditation, and must become one with the subject of his painting. He must become a tree, a rushing river, grasses and flowers, clouds and mist, or a flying bird, and only then is he truly an artist. Chu Teh-Chun was an artist who became one with nature, and his paintings are a great tribute to nature."
- Pierre Cabanne
Fan Kuan has said that 'learning from nature is better than learning from man, and the human heart is an even greater source of learning than nature.' He meant that it is the painter who is decisive, and that there a concept of abstraction already existed. The Chinese people at that time just didn't use the term 'abstraction,' that's all. The artist absorbs a conception of nature, then refines it, and what is revealed on canvas is the power of the artist's imagination, his sensibility, and his inner character. This is where the concepts behind Chinese painting and abstract painting find a common ground.
Abstract master Chu Teh-Chun's lifelong creative journey can be described as a process of 'learning from exterior nature while inspiring the interior original mind.' He graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in Hangzhou in 1941 and traveled to Paris in 1955 to study at the Acad?mie de la Grande Chaumière. He first came into contact with the artworks of Nicolas de Sta?l when he stumbled upon a retrospective for the artist at the Musée national d'art moderne in Paris in 1956. De Staël's use of colour blocks seemed to convey the inner landscapes that Chu envisioned. De Staë l's work had a profound impact, on Chu due to the contrasts of simple and dynamic colours he observed in Staë l's later works, which enhanced the paintings' internal brightness.
However, Chu began to stray away from de Staë l's influence in 1960, as he stopped using the palette knife to harshly separate thick and heavy colour blocks. Instead, he returned to the brushstrokes, lines, colours of ink, spatial fullness and emptiness, tangibility and elusiveness found in traditional Chinese landscapes. He began to concentration on the fluidity and steadiness of his brushstrokes, with a controlled balance between speed and strength. He developed his own style, a powerful one, creating great works in which the implied meanings and settings of Chinese landscape painting were presented as abstract nature. Towards the end of the 1960s, Chu was deeply inspired by Rembrandt's unique interpretations of light, after seeing his works at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Chu traveled to Italy in his later years and saw artworks by Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese, the three masters of Venice. The dramatic treatments of light and the majestic ambiance created by these Renaissance greats further sparked his creative vigor. L'espoir (Hope) (Lot 61) was created with such creative inspirations, while also demonstrating Chu's philosophy of "to accumulate richly and break forth vastly". Created in 1991 during the Gulf War, as a social critique, the painting was also an outlet for Chu to release his desire for peace. With vibrant colours painted on a jet-black background, hues of vermillion, orange, taupe, turquoise, and pastel pink are compiled together in layers to form the central focus of the painting. Broad and delicate brushstrokes are scattered in a balanced and orderly fashion. "The major chords sound like heavy downpours, and the minor chords are like intimate whispers" was how Wu Guanzhong described the infinite sense of rhythm found in the visual disarray created by Chu, with the classic Chinese pentatonic scale of gong, sha ng, jué, zh, and yu used metaphorically to illustrate Chu's use of colours.
Chu created a series of artworks in the 1990s that explored shadows and light, forms and colours, as he began to shift towards inner explorations, which the artist described as "roaming among my memories." Spiritually he traveled far and wide, freely portraying the inner scenery he envisioned, and thus produced this series of works. The painting presented here, is a large-scale work from the series that epitomizes the artist's fluidity with light and masterful use of colours. French art critic Jean-Francois Chabrun once described Chu as a "20th century Sung Dynasty painter", praising him for integrating creative spirits of Western abstract art with traditional Chinese landscape compositions and poetic portrayals of time and space.
A sense of urgency, meaning behind life, and personal ideas and emotions are skillfully fused together with Western abstraction and traditional Chinese aestheticism in L'espoir (Hope). This rare masterpiece created by Chu in his later years exemplifies the three notable features that critic Francois Cheng believes are distinctive in Chu's art, which are "the power to arouse us, a rhythmic quality, and a sense of innovativeness."

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