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Works of Lin Fengmian to go on show

"A Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting: The Art of Lin Fengmian", featuring more than 100 works, most being seen for the first time in Hong Kong, will be held at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (April 4) to June 3.

The exhibition, comprising gems in the collections of Museum of Art and Shanghai Art Museum, along with collections loaned by Madam Feng Yeh, the goddaughter of Mr Lin, and other private collectors, provides a comprehensive review of Lin's artistic career spanning 60 years.

Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), was born in Xiyangbao, Meixian, Guangdong Province. He went to France under the Work-Study Programme in 1919 and subsequently graduated from L'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Art de Paris. In 1926, he returned to China to become the Director of the National Beijing Fine Art School and founded The National Academy of Art, the predecessor of China Academy of Art, in Hangzhou in 1928. All his life, he never stopped working towards synthesising the Chinese with the Western and bridging over the forbidding divide between Western modern art and traditional ink painting.

His journey of art, however, was a tortuous solitary path. He retreated to Chongqing during the War of Resistance, lived alone to paint against all the odds in Shanghai in the post-War years, spent four years behind bars despite his innocence during the Cultural Revolution which saw the destruction of all his paintings, and finally led a quiet life and immersed himself in painting in the later years of his life in Hong Kong.

Lin not only added a florid chapter to the history of Chinese art but also passed on his legacy to great artists like Li Keran, Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-ki and Zhu Dequn. Indeed, Lin had lived up to his stature as an epoch-making master of Chinese painting.

Lin's oil paintings from the mid-1920s to 1930s, for example, "People", "Agony of Man" and "Humanity", invariably carried a distinct tinge of humanitarianism, showing his profound influence by Expressionism. With the Resistance War breaking out, he produced many ink sketches of hawkers, fishermen and ethnic minority women.

Beginning in the 1940s, his innovative "formation in square" took shape. Tranquil and peaceful, his landscapes in ink from this period often had foreground as focus.

In 1946, Lin returned to Hangzhou to be reunited with his family and re-acquainted with city life. In an attempt to infuse ink painting with concepts of modern Western art, Lin drew references from Cezanne's still-lifes, Matisse's young women and screens, Modigliani's ladies and geometric forms of the Cubist. His still-lifes, landscapes, ladies, Chinese opera characters were then well on the road to maturity.

Upon the founding of New China, Lin moved from Hangzhou to Shanghai. The Chinese operas that he was so fascinated with gave him new stimuli for his creations. He re-interpreted Cubism with the expressive means of traditional Chinese opera and borrowed his forms from the folk art of leather-silhouette play to emphasise the geometry of the painting surface. As for his ladies, he again sought inspiration from traditional Chinese art and folk art besides blending in the novel Parisian styles of early 20th century.

The period beginning from 1950s to before the Culture Revolution witnessed Lin in the prime of his painting career. His experiments with marrying Chinese rice paper with Western art ideas began to bear fruit. Ladies apart, there were also compositions reminiscent of Cezanne, geometrical still-lifes of the Cubists and lotus ponds or autumn landscapes depicted in flat distance. These paintings marked the maturity phase of Lin's ink painting.

Towards the end of 1977, Lin migrated to Hong Kong. The new living environment induced changes in his art. The liberal atmosphere gave him courage to reveal his strong emotions directly and his painting became more expressive. Crude forms, bold brushwork, scant details and striking colours were recurrent features in these late works of his.

Idealised or painted from recollections, the landscapes of this period were even further away from reality. In "Autumn Landscape", for instance, the flat-distance perspective is forsaken and expressiveness is strongly felt in the bold brushwork and bright colours.

In support of the exhibition, a fully illustrated catalogue will be published and available at the Gift Shop of the Museum of Art.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at .

Ends/Tuesday, April 3, 2007

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