Zao Wou-Ki (赵无极), was a Chinese-French painter. He is known for is abstract paintings that combined traditional Chinese calligraphy with  Western modernist techniques. His early works were heavily influenced by Chinese landscape paintings, but later incorporated elements of Western art, such as use of color and abstraction.

He born in Beijing in 1920, but his family moved to Shanghai shortly after. He graduated from Hangzhou School of Fine arts in 1941, which was forced to relocate to Chongqing in 1938 due to the second Sino-Japanese war. In 1948, he ended up in Paris to extend his artistic studies. This period of time is also known as the Chinese civil war period between the nationalists and the communists. He was also present in the May 1968 protests in France, and the Tiananmen square protests, both having great on French and Chinese culture and politics, respectively.

Although not strictly aligned with any artistic movement, he was a member of”Chinese School of Artists”, a group of Chinese artists in Paris between 1950-1960 who were looking for ways to merge traditional Chinese art techniques with Western modernist approaches.

[June-October 1985, one of the most well-known artwork by Zao Wou-ki. Source:]

Zao was one of the first Chinese artists to achieve global recognition for his art, and his art can be found in numerous museums and collections in more than 20 countries. His cross-cultural and innovative combinations of painting techniques have inspired a lot who came after him.



“Inside the Mind of an Introvert.” YouTube video. Posted by TED-Ed, January 8, 2018.

Pollack, Barbara. Brand New Art from China: A Generation on the Rise. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.

Zao Wou-Ki foundation. Biography. Zao Wou-Ki Foundation, n.d.