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    Sale 12551

    Fine Chinese Modern Paintings

    31 May 2016, Convention Hall

  • Lot 1416

    LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)

    Opera Figures Legend of the White Snake

    Price Realised  


    LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)
    Opera Figures Legend of the White Snake
    Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
    65 x 64 cm. (25 5/8 x 25 ¼ in.)
    Signed, with one seal of the artist

    The father of the Scandinavian family that acquired this painting was a representative for several European industrial machine manufacturers of precision instruments, steel, and paper. As the family lived in Asia from the early 1950s to the late 1970s, they purchased many modern Chinese paintings in order to decorate their homes in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It was during this time that the collectors met Lin Fengmian through an acquaintance who was his student and acquired Opera Figures from Legend of the White Snake. The family later moved to Sweden, where the painting has remained for years in their summer house.

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    Pre-Lot Text


    Post Lot Text

    Opera figures have been an important part of Lin Fengmian’s studies since the 1940s. After Lin Fengmian travelled to Shanghai in the early 1950s, he frequently attended opera performances under the influence of Guan Liang, a National Academy of Art professor at the time who often extended an invitation. It was during this time that he became enthralled with opera, which led to an important transition in his art. In describing his transition, he writes, “Most of these works feature opera characters. But these are very different from the opera characters I painted during my time at Hangzhou. I can say that around 1940, I was focusing first on their figures and expressions, and strengthening my grasp of freehand line drawings with added colour. But this time I’ve been drawing from Western art, especially Cubism, trying to express these characters as figures in time and space.”
    Instead of concentrating on figures and their expressions, Lin Fengmian depicts a scene as an abstract composition that encompasses not merely a still-frame, but the entire performance as a whole, portraying the movement and the continuity of the entire story. In Opera Scenes from Legend of the White Snake, the paper becomes a stage as the artist overcasts it with stark black corners and radiant background, bringing the figures into focus. Enlivened with rugged lines in an expressionist manner, the figures are both facing the viewer, while dressed respectively in contrasting cobalt blue and rust red that contrast and highlight the figures. Graceful strokes and white powder form the diaphanous dancing drapes, frozen in time. With his innovative form of expression, Lin Fengmian creates a painting with both Western and Eastern styles and depicting the scene at hand while expressing the entirety of the story, resulting in a fully balanced work that integrates the contemporary and the traditional.