About this artwork
Born in Beijing, Zao Wou-ki moved to Paris in 1948. He had studied at China’s most progressive art academy, training in both Western oil painting and Chinese ink painting and calligraphy. Despite his education, Zao’s arrival in the cosmopolitan French capital prompted for him a more tangible, as well as conceptual, reckoning with Eastern and Western aesthetics. However, it was not until he traveled to the United States, where he viewed Abstract Expressionist paintings for the first time, did the artist embrace exclusively the atmospheric abstraction for which he became known. After returning to Paris, Zao began to create sweeping, large-scale compositions and swiftly rose to prominence among a circle of fellow Paris-based abstract painters interested in lyrical and intuitive mark making, including American Joan Mitchell and German-born Hans Hartung.
In The Night is Stirring, Zao built up layers of jewel-toned color, activated by touches of lurid red and a torquing column that seems to climb up the center of the canvas. While his dark, inky brushstrokes call to mind Chinese calligraphy, still more traditional Chinese painting is reflected through Zao’s manipulation of the tropes of the landscape format, which emphasizes the rhythms
and energies of nature more than a strictly realistic approach. Suspended between the conventions of Chinese landscape painting and the materiality of Western oil painting, Zao’s canvas occupies other in-between states as well; it is, for example, an abstract work that suggests not only landscape in general but nightfall more specifically. Zhang borrowed the title from a book of poems by writer and painter Henri Michaux, a close friend and mentor.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Wou-Ki Zao
- The Night is Stirring (La nuit remue)
- Oil on linen
- 193 × 130 cm (76 1/2 × 51 in.), without frame
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Kootz