LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)
LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)

Opera Figures

LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)
Opera Figures
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
70.8 x 66.8 cm. (27 7⁄8 x 26 1⁄4 in.)
Christie's Swire Hong Kong, Fine 19th and 20th Century Chinese Paintings, 22 March 1993, Lot 315.
The Paintings by Lin Fengmian, Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1979, pl.22.
Lin Fengmian, Xuelin Publishing House, Shanghai, March 1988, pl. 101.
Further details
Lin Fengmian became fascinated by Chinese opera in the late 1940s and frequently attended performances after he moved to Shanghai. He had expressed great admiration for the beauty expressed through this art form: “How incredible that hundreds of years of performance have distilled into such a spectacle … postures reminiscent of a warrior’s dance, geometric step sequence, and brilliant colours of the makeup.” These features, much aligned with his artistic vision of Modernism, led to his adoption of the Chinese opera singers as one of his favourite themes. The lotus-shaped lantern on the lower left of the painting suggests that Lin is depicting a scene from the well-known “The Lotus Lantern,” an opera from which he most frequently draws inspiration. Featuring three figures, instead of the customary two, Lin balances the two front ones leaning right with the rear one leaning left.

When he was living in Shanghai, Lin Fengmian had a single yellow light bulb as the lighting in his studio. He had a habit of covering this bulb with white paper to soften its luminosity, working in this dimly lit room at night. As such, some of his compositions appear to have the light source shining from behind the objects, as seen in this work. Flickering orange-yellow, flame-like light peeks behind the three figures, highlighting them while adding depth to the pictorial space. Using gouache techniques, the opaque pigments further increase the sense of layers and evoke the sense of mass, often found in Cubist oil paintings. Originally an ancient performance art, the Chinese opera―a theme of lasting impact in his oeuvre―under Lin Fengmain’s brush has thus become a vehicle that transforms the dynamic dance steps into a still tableau and realizes Lin’s Modernist philosophy.

Brought to you by

Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯)
Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯) Vice President, Head of Department, Chinese Paintings

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

More from Fine Chinese Modern and Contemporary Ink Paintings

View All
View All