Zao Wou-Ki (1920–2013) was the first artist of the Chinese diaspora to achieve international recognition and was one of France’s most important painters of the post-war era and beyond. His large abstract canvases were in step with those of New York School artists of the late 1940s and 50s and emerged from the growing international impulse for non-objective painting. Zao married western vanguard painting with Chinese traditions of calligraphy and ink-drawing and in doing so created a powerful personal aesthetic that was uniquely his own.
Drawn largely from European private collections, the works of art in this catalogue have almost never been exhibited before and were deeply personal to Zao. The ceramics consist of two main groups – plates produced in the late 1970s in association with Sèvres, bearing designs created by Zao expressly for this purpose, and later designs from the 2000s painted directly on vases, bowls and plates that were subsequently editioned by Maison Bernardaud in Limoges. Zao worked in watercolor throughout his long life and this catalogue features examples from as early as 1960.
But during his last years, the artist rediscovered the medium with newfound enthusiasm and turned increasingly to nature as the source of inspiration. In 2008, he gave up oil-painting entirely, and for the next two years, watercolor was his primary form of expression.