CHU Teh-Chun was born in Baitu Zhen, Xiao district, Jiangsu province (now Anhui), China, during the troubled period of the Warlords. His father and grandfather, traditional doctors, collected Chinese paintings. CHU was the youngest of 3 boys and very early on, a tutor taught them calligraphy and classical Chinese poetry.
In 1930, he entered the school in his district, then went on to college (in Xuzhou and Haizhou): he became passionate about Chinese painting but also basketball. Gifted in both fields, he was encouraged by his father to paint.
At the age of 15, he was admitted to the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts whose director was the painter Lin Fengmian. Many professors, such as Lin Fengmian and Wu Dayu, studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and Dijon. This was an avant-garde school where Chu discovered modern Western painting and learned its techniques. In the first year, he was taught classical drawing, traditional Chinese painting under the direction of Pan Tianshou, while he practised Chinese painting with passion outside of class.
In 1936, CHU met Wu Guanzhong who at the time was studying engineering. He helped him prepare for the entrance exam to the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. This marked the beginning of a long friendship.
Together, they would paint watercolours around West Lake after lessons.
Fang Ganmin, Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu
Exodus during the war and discovery of southwest China
In July the Chinese-Japanese war began. The Japanese advanced southwards. In November, the Academy of Fine Arts had to leave Hangzhou for a long journey to the West, to Chongqing where the nationalist government of Chiang Kaï-Chek had withdrawn.
The school travelled in stages through Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
The journey lasted three years: the conditions were harsh but the adventure was memorable for CHU. He made sketches of minorities from south-west China he encountered on the way.
Recently graduated, he became a teacher and participated in his first group exhibitions
Now in Chongqing, which became the provisional capital during the war and a meeting place for all universities graduates and intellectuals, CHU obtained his final degree. He became an assistant professor at the National Academy of Fine Arts, which at that time brought together the Beijing and Hangzhou Academies. CHU only painted oils in the style of Cézanne, Derain or Matisse. He became close to sculptor Liu Kaiqu and painter Li Keran, his elders.
In 1944, he was appointed Professor of Drawing in the Department of Architecture at the National Central University of Nanjing.
CHU participated in two group exhibitions in Chongqing: in 1945 with former professors and his comrade Zao Wou-ki, and in 1946 with his friend Li Keran.
In 1947, the National Central University left Chongqing to return to Nanjing. CHU left by boat to travel down the Yangtze and join Nanjing as well. This trip was very important for CHU as he discovered grandiose and majestic landscapes that would constitute an important source of inspiration for his work.
He arrived at his destination without any work, some of them entrusted to a friend before departure and which were lost, others destroyed during a storm on the boat. When he arrived, he met his friend Wu Guanzhong who then left for France on a scholarship.
In 1948, CHU returned home to visit his family and learned that his father and one of his brothers had died during the war. This is the last time he saw his mother. Back in Nanjing, he married Liu Hanfu, a former comrade from the Hangzhou Fine Arts School.
Departure for Taiwan where he teaches western painting at the national normal university of Taiwan
On 1st October, the People's Republic of China was declared. CHU and Liu had a daughter Kate, and in December they left Nanjing and China for Taipei (Taiwan), where Liu's brother is already settled.
Chu was appointed Professor of Drawing at the Taipei National Institute of Technology, in the Architecture Department, and then obtained a position as Professor of Drawing in the Department of Fine Arts at the National Normal University of Taiwan. His students included Liu Guosong and Tung Ching-Chao, who became his second wife. He works alongside with Lee Chun-Shan, a painter who was also a teacher in Chongqing and who became one of the pioneers of abstract art in Taiwan; the two exhibited together.
In 1953, he received an official commission from the government of Chiang Kai-shek, a series of patriotic paintings representing the history of the Republic of China, since the uprisings against the Qing dynasty.
First solo exhibition
Taipei's Sun Yatsen Hall organised CHU’s first personal exhibition. It was made up of figurative oils representing mountainous landscapes of Taiwan, nudes and still lifes.
All the paintings were sold, allowing him to finance his trip to France and his first years in Paris.
Kate, his daughter, in front of her first exhibition
CHU on the boat taking him to France
Departure for paris
On 29th March, he left Taiwan for France and landed on 5th May in Marseille. This one-month boat trip gave him the opportunity to visit the Museum of Cairo where he discovered Egyptian art and the pyramids.
On the boat, he met his former student Ching-Chao (Thérèse) who was heading to Spain to study Fine Art. In Paris, CHU moved into a small hotel room on rue Lhomond in the Latin Quarter, took French classes at the Alliance Française and drew nude models at the Grande Chaumière.
He met other exiled Chinese artists such as Pan Yuliang, Sanyu and sculptor Xiong Bingming and met up with his schoolmate, Zao Wou-ki. Later, Ching-Chao joined CHU in Paris; from that point forward, they stayed by one another's side.
he releases himself from figurative expression to turn towards abstraction
CHU went to admire the paintings of Goya in Madrid and of El Greco in Toledo. The then discovered the work of Nicolas de Staël during his retrospective at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris. The freedom of this art opened up a search for abstraction for CHU.
In 1956, he was selected from many prestigious painters including Picasso, Miro and Cocteau for the exhibition "Peinture d'Aujourd'hui" in the Palais Royal gardens where he exhibited a semi-abstract painting.
Exploring abstraction but continuing to produce figurative paintings, he made a classic portrait of Ching-Chao in 1957 which won the silver medal at the Salon des Artistes Français and also presented a semi-abstract piece at the Salon Comparaison.
CHU in his hotel room on rue Lhomond
CHU at the Legendre Gallery
in december 1958 he signed a contract with galerie legendre and thus had the freedom to devote himself solely to his work
CHU introduced himself to the Creative Director of Galerie Legendre, Maurice Panier, who offered him an exclusive 6-year contract. This contract allowed him to continue his research and devote himself solely to his work. The Galerie Legendre organised many exhibitions in France and abroad, both solo and collective, including at the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh, Athens and Jerusalem. It was also an opportunity for CHU to meet other artists represented by Galerie Legendre or in the Paris School such as: Paul Revel, Francis Bott, Albert Féraud, Dietrich-Mohr, Claude Viseux and painters Ladislav Kijno, Xavier Longobardi, Pierre Gastaud, James Pichette, etc.
CHU Teh-Chun and Ching-Chao were married and their first son, Yi-Hwa, was born in 1961.
The same year, the Galerie du Haut-Pavé offered CHU his first solo exhibition in Paris and gave him the opportunity to present only abstract paintings.
chu completely mastered his artistic creativity and held a series of exhibitions
No longer wishing to be under contract, CHU exhibits in many galleries in France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany or Luxembourg, with 24 exhibitions between 1965 and 1978.
He also exhibited at the 10th Biennale in São Paulo, Brazil in 1969 where he was given a booth to represent China.
That same year was also the opportunity for CHU to discover Rembrandt's work on the occasion of the tricentenary organised at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. He felt a deep emotion at the sight of his works and believed Rembrandt to be the greatest painter in history.
In 1968, the family expanded with a second son, Yvon.
In 1971, after a stay in Thais, the family moved to Bagnolet where CHU has a workshop on the top floor with a terrace.
It is also the occasion for Chu to get back in touch with the practice of calligraphy.
CHU in his workshop de Bagnolet
CHU and his wife with Jacqueline and Hubert Ju
first steps towards recognition
In 1978, the Saint-Etienne Maison de la Culture et des Loisirs devoted a retrospective exhibition to him.
In 1979, Hubert Juin wrote a monograph on CHU Teh-Chun published by Musée de Poche. In 1981, CHU obtained French nationality.
In 1982, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre organised an exhibition: Paintings and Drawings 1955-1982.
renewed links with china
In 1979, the Cernuschi Museum organised an exhibition of Lin Fengmian who came to Paris with Liu Kaiqu and a delegation of Chinese sculptors. This was an opportunity for CHU to see his former teachers and friends again.
In 1981, Wu Guanzhong came to Paris and the two friends finally met again.
In 1983, CHU was invited by the Chinese University of Hong Kong to sit as a juror and later was invited to join the Association of Artists of China. This was the first time in 35 years that he returned to China. He had an emotional reunion with his brother and many former comrades, including his painter friend Li Keran. After this stay in Beijing, he travelled with his "Kijno" friends and visited the imperial tombs near Xi'an, the Buddhist caves of Yungang and the Yellow Mountains, the subject of Chinese painting for thousands of years. This trip allowed him to confront the Chinese landscapes that have inhabited his imagination since he left in 1949; it also gave him new sources of inspiration.
As he could stock up on Chinese paper again, he made wash drawings.
CHU returns to the Yellow Mountains
CHU and Lin Fengmian
Chu expresses himself in great style and taiwan salutes his work
This period marked the beginning of a series of very large pieces that were exhibited in 1984 at the Esch-sur-Alzette theatre in Luxembourg, in 1985 at the Sochaux Maison de la Culture et des Loisirs and in 1988 at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Liège, which devoted an exhibition to him.
In 1985 while exhibiting in Geneva, Switzerland, he witnessed a snowstorm This phenomenon inspired him and he created his famous "series of snows".
This period also marked the beginning of his recognition in Taiwan. In 1986, he was again invited to Hong Kong University and Taiwan to attend a conference. This is his first time back on the island he left in 1955.
In October 1987, the National History Museum(Lishi bowuguan) in Taipei devoted its first retrospective exhibition to him in Taiwan and several galleries simultaneously exhibited his work. In 1988 and 1989, a travelling exhibition visited fifteen municipal and departmental cultural centres in Taiwan.
In 6 years, he had 24 personal exhibitions, 5 of them in Taiwan.
Michael Sullivan, one of the greatest critics and historians of Chinese Modern Art wrote about his work and CHU met him in Oxford.
Chu s’exprime en grand et taiwan salue son œuvre
The family moved to a house in Vitry-sur-Seine where CHU had a large workshop where he can produce very large paintings, work quietly to the sound of classical music and have a large office where he can do his calligraphy and wash drawings. He appreciated the garden that enabled this relationship with nature that is so important to him.
Exhibitions followed one another in France, Europe and Taiwan.
He travelled and visited the great museums of the East American coast.
His friend Wu Guanzhong exhibited at the Cernuschi Museum in Paris and took the opportunity to visit him. In 1993, a monograph written by Pierre Cabane was published by the Cercle d'Art.
A new workshop in vitry for his new projects
CHU in front of one of his calligraphies
trip to china and first solo exhibition in his native country
In 1994, CHU went to China with his family and his friends "Les Féraud". After praying at his parents' grave, he was welcomed to Beijing by the artists' association. He continued his journey to discover new landscapes and in particular Dunhuang where CHU was very impressed by the Mogao caves and the Li River with its magnificent views.
In 1997, the Action Française d'Action Artistique (AFAA) organised a travelling exhibition of his work in Beijing, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung (Taiwan) and finally Taipei in 1998. The Beijing exhibition was his first in the People's Republic of China in more than 50 years.
At the same time, galleries dedicated exhibitions to him. In 1997, he participated in a travelling exhibition in Quebec with Kijno and Riopelle. He travelled to Quebec and discovered new landscapes.
Raoul-Jean Moulin, critic and director of the Val de Marne FDAC, organised an exhibition at the Vitry-sur-Seine Galerie Municipale.
recognition, the academy of fine arts
On 17th December 1997, CHU Teh-Chun was inducted into the Academy of Fine Arts. The reception ceremony took place on 3rd February 1999. He was the first Chinese person to join the Academy.
In 2000, a new monograph by Pierre Cabanne was published by Flammarion, with a bilingual French/English version and a Chinese version.
The AFAA organised a second travelling exhibition that will visit Shanghai, Canton and Pusan in Korea.
In 2001, he became a Chevalier, awarded the French Légion d’Honneur.
CHU and his wife at the Academy of Fine Arts
CHU working on his work of 4m by 7m long
he created a monumental canvas for the shanghai opera house
In 2002, the Shanghai Opera commissioned a monumental canvas. CHU Teh-Chun worked on it for almost two years. This painting, entitled Symphonie Festive, is 4m high and 7m long. It was exhibited at the Opéra Garnier in Paris before leaving for China where it was inaugurated on 27th August 2003.
chu continues its ascent
In 2004, on the occasion of the year of China in France, the city of Cannes paid tribute to CHU Teh-Chun with three simultaneous exhibitions.
In 2005, the Arsenal of Metz and the Museum of Fine Arts in Shanghai devoted exhibitions to him.
In 2007, an exhibition was dedicated to him at the Royal Museum of Ueno in Tokyo, then in 2008 the National Museum of History in Taipei organized a retrospective exhibition to mark his 88th birthday.
In 2010, for the 90th anniversary of CHU Teh-Chun, the "great" National Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing is hosting a major retrospective of his work.
In 2013, retrospective exhibition at the Pinacothèque de Paris.
CHU in its Vitry workshop
Portrait of CHU by Jeff Hargrove
First exhibition in the united states
CHU was awarded the French National Order of Merit. He exhibited at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, the first time he was represented by an American gallery. An important monograph appears (La Différence) with, at the request of CHU, a text by Pierre-Jean Remy, also a member of the Academy of Fine Arts.
his last major project: les vases de sèvres
Invited by the Manufacture de Sèvres, CHU begins its work in winter 2007.
In 2009, he completed the last of the 58 vases of the project carried out in collaboration with the Manufacture over the last 2 years. All the ceramic work is exhibited at the Guimet Museum in Paris during the summer.