Fengmian Lin (1900-1991)
Fengmian Lin (1900-1991)
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Fengmian Lin (1900-1991)

Lying Lady

Fengmian Lin (1900-1991)
Lying Lady
signed in Chinese (lower left)
ink and colour on paper
67.5 x 68 cm. (26 5/8 x 26 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1947
one seal of the artist
Private collection, Asia
Anon. Sale, Guardian Hong Kong, 30 March 2019, Lot 692
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
China Academy of Art Press, The Approach of Lin Feng Mian – The Century of Lin Fengmian, Hangzhou, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 112).
Artist Publishing, Lin Feng Mian – The Collection of Chinese Artists, Taipei, Taiwan, 2004 (illustrated, p. 79).
China Light Industry Press, Painting Appreciation - Lin Feng Mian, Beijing, China, 2011 (illustrated, p.90).
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Art Museum, The Approach of Lin Fengmian: The Centenary of Lin Fengmian, November 1999.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

“Throughout his life, Lin Fengmian explored and contributed tremendously to the blending of Chinese and Western styles in art. His achievement did not only originate from his grasp of and love for modern Western art, classical Chinese art and folk art. It stemmed even more strongly from his resolve to stay out of the limelight and devote himself to artistic creation and inquiry, which he pursued with impeccable integrity even in challenging circumstances.”
“The Master Lin Fengmian”, Wu Guanzhong

As one of the most iconic figures in history of art, Lin Fengmian was as much of a visionary artist as he was an insightful art educator. Widely known for being one of China’s most original early modernist, he was associated with a significant group of teachers who sought to transform Chinese art education during the republican era. His teaching methodology encompasses the fusion of Chinese and Western approaches as he believed reformation was necessary in order to elevate Chinese art to a higher level. His dedication to the arts inspired him to nurture and foster artistic talents such as Zao Wouki, Wu Guanzhong, and Chu Teh-Chun, who would then become great masters in their own right. Eventually also becoming one of the ‘four great academy presidents’ alongside legendary artist Xu Beihong. From theory to practice, Lin fully embraced the amalgamation of East and West, henceforth carving out a new path for Chinese painting, one that was grounded in a modern aesthetic consciousness.

In the present lot, Lying Lady is an embodiment of his artistic concept; as well as demonstrates his technical virtuosity and whimsical playfulness. Here, Lin Fengmian depicts a beautiful young woman reclining effortlessly, with a demure smile on her face as she looks away from the viewer. Under the prowess of Lin’s brushwork, he captures the sitter’s gentle grace while subtly expresses her reserve nature. Often painted with a large brush and by spreading inks, he swiftly executes outlines in a freehanded and impressionistic manner – one of the many Western elements embedded in the work. The subject herself is reminiscent of the reclining figures seen in classical paintings, a posture commonly depicted by artists in both East and Western cultures alike. Historically, the reclining pose conveys elite status, power, as well as a strong display of female sensuality. In a similar manner, Lin uses sinuous soft lines to delineate the gauzy attire and the outline of her elongated, voluptuous body. While the composition is anchored by the mass of the lying lady who lays diagonally across the work, it is carefully balanced by the juxtaposition of the ceramic tea wares and the oriental backdrop.

Having crossed path with Henri Matisse and Amadeo Modigliani during his studies in Paris, their works must have deeply enchanted Lin. From Matisse’s paintings of ladies in interiors, with his sensitive brushwork and decorative motifs, to the mask like features of Modigliani’s portraits. It has inspired Lin to distil these western elements and fuse them with his Chinese roots. Most prominently seen in his lines - lines were the soul of his works. The clean calligraphic lines he wields were agile and lively, it empowered him to use only simple outlines to portray the subject in a pure and raw expression. He further incorporated the flowing, lifelike expressiveness inspired by Chinese traditional folk arts. He once addressed that his paintings of ladies were primarily influenced by Chinese ceramic art, especially Song ceramics and the apsaras on the walls of the Buddhist caves in Dunhuang that provided endless inspiration with their spirited imagery and nimble lines. In addition, the use of a square composition, a characteristic choice by Lin, serves as a rejection of the usual shape of the medium (a horizontal or vertical rectangle) dictated by traditional Chinese painting’s format of a handscroll or hanging scroll. All in all, this beautiful work is a testament of his innovative vision and a preservation of his signature creation of the timeless female figure.

Painted in 1947, the 1940s was a time when Lin Fengmian had already achieved a complete integration of Chinese and Western influences in his works. It was also notably a period when he devoted his time portraying ladies before shifting his attention to other genres instead towards the 1950s. Art historian Lang Shao-jun once said the painting of modern ladies that appeared towards the end of the 1940s were a reflection of the subtle changes in Lin Fengmian’s daily life and artistic pursuits. His desire for democracy, individuality and the amalgamation of Western influences were once again revitalized. Lying Lady encapsulates the essence of Lin Fengmian’s techniques and creative expression. It is a sheer reflection of the artist’s transition from tradition and inks to colours and modernity, and for him to create a unique and Eastern kind of reserved beauty, a sense of timelessness recognized in both the East and West.

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