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

Lotus Pond

LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)
Lotus Pond
signed in Chinese (lower right)
ink and colour on paper
66.5 x 67.7 cm. (26 1⁄4 x 26 5⁄8 in.)
Painted in 1983
one seal of the artist
Collection of Ms Feng Yeh
Sotheby's Hong Kong, May 2002, lot 145
Private collection
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2015, lot 1241
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
The Paintings of LIN FENG-MIEN, exh. cat., National Museum of History, Taipei, October 1989 (illustrated, plate 47).
Huang Miaozi, "Love Story at Lake Xi — about Lin Fengmian", Record of Teachers and Friends in Art Circle, Dongda Books Co., Taipei, February 1998 (illustrated p.138).
Taipei, National Museum of History, Lin Feng-Mien's 90th Birthday Retrospective Exhibition, October 1989.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

The 1980s saw a gradual acceptance of Western art and culture in China. In the years following the Cultural Revolution, the country entered an era of reform and opening. Against this historical backdrop, Lin Fengmian’s work was re-evaluated and the artist finally garnered the recognition he deserved. In the face of social upheavals and personal hardships, Lin stayed true to himself and lived through the difficult times with composure. He never wavered in his philosophy of life; nor did he ever give up his love for and faith in mankind. Lin’s works from this period move beyond thematic expression and embody profound metaphorical meaning, as they resonate with the feeling of peace and serenity that filled the last ten years of his life. Lotus Pond is not only an elegant reflection of the artist’s outlook on life in his final years; it also illustrates Lin’s incredible fusion of Chinese literati painting and Western expressionism, as the painting remains a much-loved masterpiece.

Throughout the history of Eastern and Western art, the 'lotus pond' has featured in varied and splendid portrayals in works of poetry, calligraphy and painting, as it has been a favourite subject of many masters. Zhang Daqian said, ‘The lotus flower is both the easiest and the most difficult to paint. It is easy to depict its form, and it is difficult to capture its essence.’ It is the subject of countless masterpieces in various styles of Western and Eastern painting, ranging from Impressionism to Chinese painting and calligraphy. As a pioneer of modern Chinese art, Lin infused his love for the lotus flower into his extraordinary works.

Lin was born in a mountain village in Meixian, Guangdong Province in 1900. He had a deep love for nature from an early age, as he grew up observing the beauty of natural landscapes. Nature became an essential element in his paintings and an embodiment of the artist’s emotions. Among his paintings of natural landscapes, the ‘lotus pond’ is one of the most frequently depicted, iconic and moving subjects.

As a symbol of virtue in traditional Chinese culture, the lotus flower stands tall with elegance, purity and firmness above the water. In Lin’s Lotus Pond, the pure white of the flower petals is juxtaposed by the dark ink colour in the background. It highlights the image of the lotus flower which “grows out of the water yet stays untainted, and reposes on the water”, lending a spiritual meaning to the painting. During his student years in Paris, Lin was nourished by Impressionism and Fauvism, the most prominent art movements of the time, and he went on to blend the essence of these art styles into traditional Chinese painting. As seen in the present work, the forceful brushwork and gentle shapes embody the resonance of Chinese painting, while the layered colours and rich composition reflect the spirit of Western art. Despite its richness, the composition does not feel compressed. Lin’s exceptional technique instills a feeling of movement and rhythm in the painting: the lotus flowers are in full bloom and swaying in the wind, luring the viewer into a serene atmosphere. With its unique resonance, this masterpiece is a popular work from the artist’s oevure. It was included in Lin’s first retrospective—The paintings of Lin Fengmian at the National History Museum in Taiwan in 1989. The exhibition received widespread acclaim in the art world. At the age of 90, Lin attended the exhibition in person, as his presence brought a unique significance to the retrospective.

Lin lived through wars, persecutions and hardships for much of his life, while he also experienced remarkable success. As the artist persevered through the vicissitudes of joy and sorrow, he remained steadfast in his passion for life and in his ideals. Like the white lotus flowers that stand firm in Lotus Pond, Lin is not only a seminal figure in the art world and an intellectual icon for the later generations; he is also a pioneer of modern Chinese art who inspired artists such as Zao Wou-Ki and Wu Guangzhong, who went on to become masters in their own rights.

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