(1920 - 2014)
Teh-Chun Chu was active/lived in China, France. TehChun Chu is known for abstract landscape painting, ceramics, calligraphy and graphics.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography from Tobin Reese Fine Art
As the third son of the Chu family, Teh-Chun was born on 24 October 1920 in Baitou Zhen, in the province of Jiangsu. This agricultural region of China made up of plains, watercourses and canals and which is also called the 'water country' will mark him deeply and give the artist Chu Teh-Chun a luminous palette. He comes from a prosperous family of medical doctors, who are collectors of traditional Chinese painting.
In 1935, he enters the National School of Fine Arts in Hangzhou where he meets his contemporary Zao Wou-Ki. At the time not just traditional painting was taught; painters who had lived in France had brought back art reviews and reproductions of Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Cézanne which fascinate Chu Teh-Chun. With impressionism, he discovers another technique and another vision of art.
The declaration of the Sino-Japanese war on 7 July 1937 leads to a relocation of the school inside the country. During this exodus which lasts two years, Chu Teh-Chun discovers the depth of the Chinese countryside and remembers extraordinary landscapes.
At the end of his studies in 1941, he is immediately appointed as an assistant professor. He teaches in the architecture department of the central University of Nankin from 1944 to 1949. He then becomes a professor in Taipei and then in Taiwan, while continuing his exhibitions.
His status ensures he has a comfortable existence, but he nonetheless dreams of leaving to divest himself of academic conventions. So he therefore leaves China in 1955, at the age of 35 with his wife Ching-Chao. During the long journey which brings him to Europe, he makes a stopover in Cairo where he discovers Pharaonic art, which is his first real contact with western art. He arrives in France, a mythical country discovered during his studies through its painters and he sets up home in Paris.
Modern art then enters Chu Teh-Chun's life. He leaves a frozen world for a world in movement. 1955 is the year of Nicolas de Staël's death, Mark Tobey proposes his exhibition 'the Movement' at Jeanne Bucher's premises, the Denise-René gallery presents the kinetic art of Agam, Pol Bury, Calder, Duchamp and Vasarely. Chu Teh-Chun discovers that the painters' media and materials are different from those which he knows. One year after his death, the City of Paris National Museum of Modern Art held a Nicolas de Staël retrospective. This event has a lasting impact on Chu Teh-Chun who is moved by the embedded, architectural shapes in ranges of restrained colours. He draws inspiration from them in his own paintings and replaces the traditional urban views which he painted at his arrival in Paris by a free proliferation of lively colours with material effects. Nature, its landscapes and its climatic phenomena are always his main sources of inspiration. Chu Teh-Chun's painting 'is a place of colours and shapes, born from nature' writes the art critic and friend of the artist Pierre Cabanne. He represents locations that are both imaginary and real, inspired by his own experience. The link to China, with its culture, can be found in his paintings. The heritage of calligraphy can be felt in the swathes of silence which punctuate the multidimensional space made up of lively and spontaneous gestures in his paintings.
He begins to exhibit his work in galleries from the years 1958-60. Thus he holds his first exhibition in the Legendre gallery and is noticed by critics. Maurice Panier, the artistic director of the Legendre gallery, offers him an exclusive contract for six years, which enables Chu Teh-Chun to invest in a workshop. He meets other artists from the gallery, some of whom such as Kijno or the sculptor Féraud will become his friends. And he becomes part of Parisian artistic life.
Abstraction then becomes a necessity for the Chinese artist. For him, it is a language which becomes incessantly renewed and which allows him to communicate more easily, with greater spontaneity and freedom of movement. His paintings are rich and it is difficult to retrace the path of the artist's hand, to find a start and an end to it.
In 1983, he is invited by the department of Fine Arts of the University of Hong Kong to be on the final year examining board. The Chinese Union of Artists offers him an opportunity to rediscover his own country which he had not visited for 28 years. He then happily re-explores the China of his childhood. Invited for a second time in 1986, he shows a retrospective of his work at the Taipei national History Museum in 1987. He has been out of his country for thirty-two years and this is the first time that he is showing all of his work.
During the 1990s, he sets up home in Vitry-sur-Seine in Val de Marne and has a vast well lighted workshop. He now favours large formats, diptychs and triptychs, which he exhibits throughout Europe, the United States and the Far East. Major monographs are published and he is awarded several public commissions.
The years after 2000 are the symbol of recognition of Chu Teh-Chun's work. In 2001, he becomes a Chevalier of the Order of Academic Palms and is then appointed as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic. He accompanies Jacques Chirac to Beijing in the context of the year of France in China. The latter describes him, like Zao Wou-Ki, as 'symbols (…) of the meeting between cultured Chinese tradition and contemporary French painting' and awards him the title of Officer of the National Order of Merit in 2006. In the same year, Chu Teh-Chun receives the European Gold Medal of Merit in Luxembourg.
The final proof of the establishment of his work is his first personal exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in New York in May-June 2006.
Information courtesy of Jeane Bastien, Brussels, Belgium
Chinese visual artist Chu Teh-Chun created a unique style that linked painting with poetry—the spoken and written word with the beauty of the landscape. He was admired for his inventive style and wide range of artistic abilities for creating large-scale paintings, ceramic pieces, graphics, diptychs, and triptychs. He became a well-known and respected abstract painter after moving to and establishing himself in France, where he created his most seminal works with rich colors, light and dark contrasts, and the incorporation of calligraphy. The artist prided himself in painting works that could be cherished and understood by all. He sought to put a piece of his soul into every work and did not feel the need to explain the meanings of his works beyond the fact they were created from feelings deep within him. He said, "The marvelous lies in the inexplicable."
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Chu Teh-Chun was born in 1920 in the town of Baitu, Jiangsu Province (now a part of Anhui Province), China. At age fifteen he was admitted to the National School of Fine Arts (now the China Academy of Art) in Hangzhou, where he initially showed interest in learning traditional Chinese techniques, however he chose to focus on Western painting styles. He was fortunate to have distinguished Chinese artists as professors, such as Pan Tianshou and Wu Dayu, who instructed him in Chinese painting and Western art, respectively.
Two of Teh-Chun's classmates, and fellow modernist Chinese painters, were Wu Guanzhong and Zao Wou-Ki. Art historians refer to this trio as the "Three Musketeers" of their painting style since they all attended school in China and France and shared other accomplishments, such as election as members to the Académie des Beaux-Arts of France and pioneered efforts to promote modernist art in the 1950s. After graduating in 1941 and in light of the events of the Sino-Japanese War, The-Chun, along with many of his art teachers and fellow students, had to move farther west in China to avoid conflict. He was able to move to Taipei, Taiwan in 1949 in the wake of the Communist victory in Mainland China and obtain a job teaching Western style art at the National Taiwan Normal University, a position he held for fifteen years. His first one-man show was held at Zhongshan Hall in Taipei in 1954. In 1955 he moved to Paris and the following year he entered and won the Silver Prize at the Paris Spring Salon for a portrait of his wife Tung Ching-Chao. Guanzhong dubbed the painting the "Mona Lisa of the East" and Teh-Chun's name spread after receipt of this award.
Life and study in France, as well as exposure to famous works housed in the Louvre, caused The-Chun to shift to a more Western style. He first experimented with painting the French landscape and then moved on to abstract techniques, new color combinations, and a complete abandonment of figures and increasingly unrestrained brushstrokes, in part due to a visit to an exhibition of the works of Nicolas de Stäel. He also admired the works of Monet, Cézanne, and Henri Matisse.
As Teh-Chun gained recognition in France as well as on the international scene, he was invited to participate in international competition and expositions, such as the International Modern Graphic Exposition held in 1964 at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 1969 São Paulo Biennial, and other shows in Jerusalem and Athens. During the 1970s, Teh-Chun connected with his Chinese roots by again practicing calligraphy, which he learned in his youth, and including elements of this traditional Chinese style in his paintings. Teh-Chun became a French citizen in 1980, held another solo exhibition of the entirety of his work at the National Museum of History in Taipei in 1987, and was elected to the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute of Paris in 1997. Teh-Chun continued to live and work in Paris until his death at age 93 on March 26, 2014, not long after the deaths of his friends and the other two "Musketeers", Wu Guanzhong (2010) and Zao Wou-Ki (2013). When Teh-Chun, the last "Musketeer" passed, art historians labeled his death the end of an era.
Teh-Chun's works have been featured temporarily and permanently in over fifty galleries and museums around the world, including the Marlborough Gallery and the Danzinger Gallery in New York, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris, and the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. According to Teh-Chun, his best work was The Aura of Revival (oil). He donated this painting to the Shanghai Grand Theater in 2003 in celebration of the theater's fifth anniversary where it was temporarily on display in the lobby.
A partial list of his public collections is as follows:
Shanghai Museum of Art (Shanghai, China)
Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou, China)
Musée Cernuschi (Paris, France)
Bibliothéque Nationale (Paris, France)
Fonds National d'Art Contemporain (Paris, France)
Maison de la Culture de la Société des Eaux (Marseilles, France)
National Library (Bogotá, Colombia)
Source: Kristin Guess for Tobin Reese Fine Art
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