This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more


signed in Chinese, signed 'ZAO' (lower right)
watercolour on paper
31 x 41 cm. (12 1/4 x 16 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2005
Private Collection, France (acquired directly from the artist by the present owner)

The authenticity of the artwork has been confirmed by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.
Special notice
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.

Lot Essay

"In my mind I often wonder, How can I paint the wind? How can I express the brightness and purity of light? What I want is not to depict nature, but to juxtapose and arrange images, to let people feel the air rippling across the serene surface of the water. I want to create new colors, new spaces, a new kind of lightness. I want people to feel those fresh, light, shimmering sensations."
——Zao Wou-ki

In addition to the oils he painted on canvas throughout his career, watercolor was also a vehicle through which Zao Wou-ki realized his ideas; the medium's unique sense of light, transparency, and fluidity enabled him to produce numerous light, graceful works in a freeform style. The three watercolor works presented in this sale, produced during 2005 and 2008, contain none of the weighty, powerful brushwork textures of his early work nor their mottled and variegated textures. During this period Zao moved from the grand, bold, and stirring works of earlier periods and toward a broader kind of sunniness and optimism, while painting his watercolors in a softer, mistier style. He explored the subtle and surprising effects of light and color, taking advantage of the unique qualities of watercolors to produce abstract spaces.

The two watercolors from 2005 both feature palettes largely of blue and green. In Untitled (lot 213), yellow- green lines of varying intensity, along with washes of blue, float in a semi-transparent space; viewers seem to be gazing downward at the surface of a clear lake, seeing the rhythm of life and the flow of time through its blue waves. In Zao's free, relaxed brushwork there is an Eastern sense of letting things take their course naturally, giving rise to the sense of indistinct distance and haziness of the Southern Song landscape painters. The other Untitled (lot 212) employs greater amounts of yellow, spreading outward from the upper left and mixing with the sky blue the emerges from the right of the painting. The combination of warm and cool tones, like yin-yang and taiji in Chinese philosophy, stand in opposition even while complementing and supporting each other, forming the underlying foundation of the heavens and the earth and all things in between.

In 2008, Zao Wou-ki stopped working with oils and thoroughly shifted his focus onto watercolors and other materials. In the same year, Zao created Untitled (lot 211) with a palette of bright and warm colors that embrace the passion and happiness of life. Washes and splashes of orange and red express the vital energies of magma and waves, in a lighter and more agile manner. Lines, blocks of color, and spots of ink spring across the paper in a seemingly disorderly array, yet still expressing the unique order of life and the flow of qi or energy through all things. On Zao's watercolor paper, the inner harmony of human spirituality meets and blends with the larger natural order, expressing the unity of man and nature in Eastern philosophy.

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