Chu Teh-Chun (1920-2014) Part I

  • Chu Teh-Chun - The Suddenly Rule, 1992
Chu Teh-Chun

Chu Teh-Chun

Chu Teh-Chun or Zhu Dequn was a Chinese-French abstract painter famous for his pioneering style integrating traditional Chinese painting techniques with Western abstract art. Chu and his schoolmates Wu Guanzhong and Zao Wou-Ki were dubbed the “Three Musketeers” of modernist Chinese artists trained in China and France.

Chu Teh-Chun was born in 1920 in the town of Baitu in Xiao County, which was then in Jiangsu province but now part of Anhuiprovince. In 1935 he entered the National School of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Art) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, graduating in 1941. At the school he studied Chinese painting under Pan Tianshou and Western art under Wu Dayu, both prominent Chinese artists. Among his schoolmates were Wu Guanzhong and Zao Wou-Ki. The three, dubbed the “Three Musketeers” of Chinese modernist art, were all elected as members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. It was owing to Chu’s influence that Wu Guanzhong decided to abandon engineering and become an artist. In 1945 Chu became a faculty member of the architecture department of the National Central University in Nanjing, then China’s capital. With the communist victory in mainland China, he moved to Taiwan in 1949, joining the National Taiwan Normal University where he taught Western-style painting. He moved to Paris in 1955, where he lived for the rest of his life. He became a French citizen in 1980, and a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1997.

In April 1956, Chu painted an oil on canvas portrait of his wife Tung Ching-Chao, which won the silver medal at the Paris Salon. Chu called the painting his “lucky star”, after which his career became increasingly successful. Wu Guanzhong praised the painting as the “Mona Lisa of the East”.

To be continued in part II

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