Zao Wou-Ki (born 13 February 1921 in Beijing) is a Chinese-French painter. He was born in a cultivated family and studied calligraphy in his childhood and from 1935 to 1941 painting at the school of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. He went to Paris to live on the same block in Montparnasse where the classes of Émile Othon Friesz took place. His earliest exhibitions in France were met with praise from Miró and Picasso.
His works, influenced by Paul Klee, are orientated to abstraction. He names them with the date in which he finishes them, and in them, masses of colours appear to materialise a creating world, like a big bang, where light structures the canvas. He works often big formats in triptychs and diptychs.
While his work is stylistically similar to the Abstract Expressionists whom he met while travelling in New York, he is also influenced by Impressionism. Zao Wou-ki himself has stated that he has been influenced by the works of Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne.
His meeting with Henri Michaux pushed him to review his Indian ink techniques, always based in Chinese traditional drawings.
Zao Wou-ki is a member of the Académie des beaux-arts, and is considered one of the most successful Chinese painters alive. One of his paintings recently sold for a record price equivalent to 2 million USD at the Sotheby's in Hong Kong. Former French President Jacques Chirac was offered a painting by Zao Wu Ki by his ministers during their last meeting.
As of now Zao Wou-ki has stopped producing new paintings.