Chu Teh-Chun - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, June 6, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Matin de fête (‘the morning of the celebration’) is the story of enduring friendship between two artistic giants. Albert Féraud was a celebrated French sculptor who helped Chu Teh-Chun to adjust to Parisian life and introduced him to its vibrant art scene. They became close friends, exchanging artworks over the course of their 50-year friendship, and Chu’s masterpiece was created to commemorate the birth of Féraud’s grandson.


    Chu Teh-Chun

    Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun at the grottoes of Dunhuang, China in 1994

    (photo and information courtesy of the family of Albert Féraud and Thérèse Chu)

     Previously, I was an objective painter, but now I am no longer interested in this way of painting, because after having begun to study abstract painting, I profoundly and obviously felt the freedom of expression to which it testifies. — Chu Teh-Chun 


    The union of abstraction, calligraphy and poetry in Chu’s work points towards the freedom afforded to him by life in France and a unique legacy handed down by China’s long and distinguished intellectual heritage. Matin de fête, executed by Chu after decades of honing his expressive powers, channels a sublime, spiritual energy and a poetic complexity of feeling. Chu’s captivating style of abstract landscape painting, with dramatic chiaroscuro and a sublime interplay of light and shadow, had given rise to a new dynamic expression of harmony and energy in his works. Expressive brushwork and an intense palette gave Chu’s works a stirring gravity and depth unmatched by his artistic peers in the East or West. 


    Paying tribute to the Song Dynasty artists Su Shi, an acclaimed poet-painter who saw art as an outward expression of the artist’s interior experience, and Mi Fu, who pioneered a technique known as ‘splashed ink’, using moist washes and textured strokes to evoke the misty and rainy landscapes of the region (see for example Pavilion of Rising Clouds which is attributed to him), Chu saw abstraction as a means to reconcile the artistic cultural heritage of traditional Chinese painting and Western expressionism. Upholding the rigour and spirit of Eastern calligraphy and philosophy in brushwork and composition gave Chu’s deep, richly-coloured brushstrokes the ability to transcend the dichotomy of abstraction versus figuration, and to reconfigure the Western mode of abstract expressionism in his own way. ‘His bold lines are like downpours, while his thin ones are like whispers,’ Wu Guanzhong wrote of Chu’s paintings.


    A meeting of minds


    Féraud and Chu were introduced to each other by Chu’s French teacher, Madeleine Jousselin, who was acquainted with Féraud’s wife Henriette. At their first encounter, a dinner organized by Mme Jousselin, Chu was too shy to speak, stymied by his poor knowledge of French at the time. In 1960, after losing contact for a while, Chu passed by Féraud’s exhibition at Galerie 7, rue de Miromesnil, and Féraud called out to him. It marked the beginning of a very special friendship.


    Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun

    Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun in Paris in 1980
    (photo and information courtesy of the family of Albert Féraud and Thérèse Chu)


    The son of a Nobel Prize winner and an opera singer, Féraud initially trained with the celebrated Art Deco sculptor Alfred Janniot and was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome for sculpture. But his time in Italy gave him a profound understanding of sculptural harmony and equilibrium beyond the constraints of form, and back in France he promptly abandoned the stultifying dictates of classicism and, like Chu, Féraud had moved away from figuration completely by 1960. He began experimenting with different materials – lead and stainless steel – foraging materials from car scrapyards and industrial sites alongside radical fellow French sculptors César and Michel Guino, a sculptural practice where he found his greatest freedom. Abstract expressionism gave both Féraud and Chu unexpected ways of bridging previously diametrically opposed artistic cultures. Back in his vast studio in Bagneux, Féraud would fold, assemble, weld, twist and shred scrap metal into monumental abstract compositions, giving life and dynamic expression to forms previously imaginable only in two-dimensional works.


    After moving to a larger studio in Arcueil, Féraud organised weekly Saturday lunch gatherings for friends, family, collectors and art critics. Each guest participated in some way, and Chu would usually attend with his family, bringing groceries or cooking with Albert. In these convivial, relaxed times outside his studio environment Chu forged strong ties with Féraud. In 1994 Féraud even joined Chu on a 3-week family trip to China, together visiting several iconic places, some of which Chu himself had never seen before. Chu and Féraud exhibited together several times and even shared their contacts. In 1989 Albert Féraud was nominated as a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, one of the most prestigious honours in the arts in France, and encouraged Chu to apply. Chu was accepted in 1997, and asked Féraud to design his ceremonial sword which would accompany the traditional Académicien’s outfit.


    Chu Teh-Chun

    Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun at Chu’s exhibition in Paris in 1994

    (photo and information courtesy of the family of Albert Féraud and Thérèse Chu)


    In recognition of the artist’s contribution to 20th Century Chinese art history, the National Museum of China in Beijing will hold a major retrospective of Chu Teh-Chun’s work at the end of 2021 to celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth, followed by a second exhibition in Suzhou, the city of his birth, focusing on his works on paper.


    Phillips would like to thank the Fondation Chu Teh-Chun for their generous assistance with this essay.

    The families of Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun in Paris in 1980

    The families of Albert Féraud and Chu Teh-Chun in Paris in 1980
    (photo and information courtesy of the family of Albert Féraud and Thérèse Chu)


    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1990

    • Literature

      Pierre Cabanne, Chu Teh-Chun, Paris, 2000. pp. 144, 245 (illustrated, p. 145, titled as Matin en fête)


Matin de fête

signed and dated 'CHU TEH-CHUN [in Chinese and Pinyin] 90' lower right; further signed, titled and dated '"Matin de fête" CHU TEH-CHUN [in Pinyin and Chinese] 1990' on the reverse
oil on canvas
146 x 114 cm. (57 1/2 x 44 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1990, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist's wife, Chu Ching-Chao. This work will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the work of Chu Teh-Chun, being prepared by Fondation Chu Teh-Chun. (Information provided by Fondation Chu Teh-Chun and Mrs Chu Ching-Chao.)

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for HK$5,418,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 7 June 2021