Zao Wou-Ki was a Chinese-French painter. He was a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Zao Wou-Ki graduated from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where he studied under Fang Ganmin and Wu Dayu.
Zao's 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 worked formats in triptychs and diptychs. While his work was stylistically similar to the Abstract Expressionists whom he met while travelling in New York, he was influenced by Impressionism. Zao Wou-Ki stated that he had been influenced by the works of Matisse, Picasso and Cézanne.
His meetings with Henri Michaux pushed him to review his Indian ink techniques, always based in Chinese traditional drawings. Zao was a member of the Académie des beaux-arts, and was considered to have been one of the most successful Chinese painters during his lifetime.
In 1982, he was invited to paint for the Fragrant Hills Hotel in Beijing, designed by I. M. Pei. I. M. Pei had a fellowship to Europe in the early 1950s and he met Wou-Ki at Galerie Claude Bernard, the gallery that represented Wou-Ki. In 1983, he returned to his alma mater, the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou to give lectures.
Former French President Jacques Chirac was offered a painting by Zao Wou-Ki by his ministers during their last meeting.
By the end of his life Zao had stopped producing new paintings due to health problems. He died on 9 April 2013 at his home in Switzerland.