Chu Teh-Chun was born on 24 October 1920, in Baitu Zhen, Anhui, China. He was exposed from a young age to calligraphy and classical Chinese poetry. Chu displayed artistic talent whilst at school, and was admitted to the avant-garde Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1935, where he studied under Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu, and Pan Tianshou, learning both Western and traditional Chinese painting techniques. He met Wu Guanzhong and Zao Wou-Ki whilst studying there, the former becoming a particularly close friend. Having had to flee Hangzhou during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45), he graduated in 1941 and became an assistant professor at the National Academy of Fine Arts, Chongqing, and painted in the style of Cézanne, Derain and Matisse. In 1947, the National Central University left Chongqing to return to Nanjing – Chu would make the journey to Nanjing down the Yangtze, seeing spectacular landscapes that would prove inspirational to the artist.
In 1949, Chu moved to Taipei with his wife, Liu Hanfu, and their newly born daughter. He was officially commissioned by the government to produce a series of historic paintings on the history of the Republic of China (1953) and had his first solo exhibition, at the Sun Yatsen Hall (1954), whilst in Taipei. In 1955, Chu moved to Paris where, upon the discovery of Nicolas de Staël’s work at a retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne (1956), began to explore abstraction. Chu signed a six-year contract with Galerie Legendre in 1958, which gave him the opportunity to focus purely on his practice for the first time, though he decided not to renew in 1965. Chu was exhibiting internationally at this stage, including a major exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1964), and represented China at the 10th São Paolo Biennial (1969).
In 1971, Chu moved to Bagnolet. He returned to calligraphy, and began to incorporate aspects of the technique into his abstract canvases, as well as producing calligraphic works on paper. He had solo exhibitions at the St-Etienne Maison de la Culture et des Loisirs (1978) and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre (1982), and returned to China for the first time in thirty-five years in 1983, when he was invited to join the Association of Artists of China. Whilst there, Chu’s revisitation of the dramatic landscapes provided fresh impetus, and he began to produce monumental canvases from 1984. In 1990, he moved to Vitry-sur-Seine and continued to exhibit internationally, including in China for the first time in more than fifty years (1997). In 1999, Chu was inducted in the Academy of Fine Arts – the first Chinese person ever – and was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur in 2001. Chu’s last major project was Les Vases de Sévres, 2007-09, a collaboration with Manufacture des Sèvres that culminated in fifty-eight vases that were exhibited at the Guimet Museum, Paris. Chu died on 26th March 2014, in Paris.
Chu’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: Shanghai Museum of Art, Shanghai; Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China; National Museum of History, Taipei; Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taiwan; Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris; Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris; Musée Cernuschi, Paris; Musée des beaux-arts André Malraux, Le Havre.