Property from the Collection of Mr Douglas Spankie (1929–1974), Consul-General of the United Kingdom in Shanghai (1962–1964)
PROPERTY FROM BRITISH CONSULGENERAL IN SHANGHAI 1962–1964
The five oil paintings presented in this sale are from the collection of Douglas Spankie (1929- 1974), who as stationed at the British Consul General in Shanghai from 1962 to 1964. Those include two from his Opera Series, Guan Yu Releases Cao Cao at Huarong Trail (Lot 44) and Beauty Defies Tyranny (Lot 45), presented at the evening sale, and three more works in coloured ink for the day sale: Lady with Lotus (Lot 313), Willow Scenery (Lot 314), and Cormorants (Lot 315). Of the three, Lady with Lotus was inscribed by Lin Fengmian in French and Chinese on the reverse, mr et mme: Spankie/ Lin Fon Ming/ 964, mai,' indicating the bonds of friendship that existed between the artist and Douglas Spankie and his wife Jane. Lin's autobiography, drafted in 1971 while he was imprisoned, reveals that in 1963 a Belgian man named 'Frank Van Roosbroek' introduced two men named 'Douglas Spankie' and 'Philip Mansley' from the British Consulate in Shanghai to buy paintings from him This cross-cultural friendship was also documented in the 1999 book Biography of Lin Fengmian by Zheng Zhong, who researched Lin's life and work. 'In the past, it had been his wife who took care of these matters (selling paintings), but at this time, someone stationed at the British Consulate in Shanghai took it upon himself to help Lin Fengmian sell some paintings into his circle of foreigners. Those who knew Lin at this time. included Douglas Spankie, chargé d'affaires at the British Consulate in Shanghai, and Philip Mansley, another official at the same office; the wife of a Norwegian consul; 'Paolo'at the Italian Consulate; 'Lucelyn' from a bank, doctor 'Fossick', and others, including two physicians from France and Switzerland, 'Sandler' and 'Kanders'. All were permanently stationed or living in Shanghai, and would occasionally visit Lin Fengmian and buy one or two paintings. When foreign delegations came to Shanghai, they would be introduced by these friends of the artist and buy some of his works, and several of them also studied painting with Lin.' 1 In researching Douglas Spankie's collection, we interviewed his eldest daughter who remembers the name of the Belgian friend of her father's, Frank Van Roosbroek (who introduced Spankie and Mansley to Lin Fengmian), Philip Mansley, and the wife of the Norwegian consul referred to the above, Mrs Gundersen. Previously, those names were only known to us through the Chinese transliterations which appeared in Lin Fengmian's autobiography and in Zheng Zhong's biography of Lin Fengmian. Now, however, their names and their identities have each been verified, allowing us to appreciate the unique historical value of this collection. Further, by presenting to us the circle of foreign friends that Lin had at the time, we have also learned how widely his work was appreciated in foreign diplomatic circles. Lin Fengmian's art can be divided into phases corresponding to his stays in Paris as a student, and then in Chongqing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. After resigning from his post as head of the Hangzhou National Academy of the Arts and moving to Shanghai in 1951, he enjoyed what could be called his mature period, as during the 1950s and '60s certain artistic concepts settled into place and developed. The works presented here, his Lady with Lotus, Cormorants, and Willow Scenery, date from this period in Shanghai and provide strong insights into the theories and methods by which the artist sought to create a synthesis of Chinese and Western art. SQUARE FORMAT The use of square paper for these compositions marked Lin Fengmian's total departure from the Chinese tradition of the literati painters, as classical paintings on silk were typically vertical or horizontal scroll paintings. Lin brought a breath of fresh air to Chinese art by deliberately abandoning this universal form; also important was that theoretical ideas were more easily realized due to certain subtle factors connected with painting on square paper. Squares have clear vertical and horizontal lines, and the forces of the vertical axis and horizontal lines balance the forces of diagonal, bringing a calm and still quality, unlike vertical or horizontal scrolls, where they bring more tension. Lin not only succeeded at creating compositions suitable for a square pictorial space, but did so with wonderful deftness.