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Lin Fengmian [Lin Feng-mien; Lin Fengmin]locked

(b Mei xian, Guangdong Province, 1900; d 1991).
  • Hsio-Yen Shih

Chinese art educator and painter. His grandfather was a carver of tombstones, as was his father, who also learnt to paint. He began carving and painting as a child, often copying from the Jiezi yuan huazhuan (‘Mustard-seed Garden painting manual’; 1679 and 1701). He sold his first painting at the age of nine. In 1918 he moved to Shanghai, where he saw an advertisement for a work-study programme in France. That winter he began work in France as a signboard painter, after which he spent some months studying French at Fontainebleau and elsewhere. One school had a collection of plaster casts, which he began to draw in his spare time. In the spring of 1920 he entered the Dijon National Academy of Fine Arts and began to draw figures in charcoal. Within six months he had been recommended by the head of the school, a relief sculptor, to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He also studied drawing and oil painting at the Cormon art studio in Paris and learnt much from the collections of the Louvre and the Musée Guimet. In 1922 his oil painting Autumn was exhibited at the Salon d’Automne. He spent 1923 in Berlin, where his limited funds would extend further and where he was introduced to northern European movements in painting. In 1924 he contributed over 40 oil paintings and Chinese-media paintings (executed using water-based ink and natural pigments on paper or silk) to an exhibition of ancient and modern Chinese art in Strasbourg, organized by the Chinese government; these revealed his interest in combining Eastern and Western concepts in his painting. Two large oil paintings were accepted for the 1924 Salon d’Automne. The following year Lin exhibited in the Chinese section of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs.

He returned to China in the winter of 1925, with his French second wife, to become principal of the Beiping [Beijing] Academy of Art, but resigned two years later because of political instability in northern China. In Nanjing, as chairman of an art education committee under the government’s University Council, he prepared the first all-China art exhibition in 1928 and planned the new Hangzhou National Academy of Arts, of which he served as principal until 1938, when the Beiping Academy was merged with the Hangzhou Academy, and he became chairman of its administrative committee. The eruption of student unrest at the time contributed to his decision to become an independent painter in Shanghai. In 1939 the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) forced Lin to leave for unoccupied territory. During the war he served the government in various capacities, and afterwards taught intermittently until 1952, when deteriorating health caused him to move to Shanghai. In 1956 his wife and daughter moved to Brazil. From 1966 to 1976 Lin suffered persecution during the Cultural Revolution and in 1977 he left mainland China to make his home in Hong Kong.

Lin Fengmian had major one-man exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from 1926 onwards. His paintings were also shown at the Musée Guimet and the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1946, 1953, 1955 and 1979. The National Gallery in Prague owns some of his works. The large oil paintings of Lin Fengmian’s early Paris period no longer survive, but their titles, such as Desire to Live and Search suggest Fauvist influence. His Chinese-style watercolour paintings of flowers and birds from that time reveal elements of the late works of Cézanne and of the Expressionists, in the breaking up of contours and the use of strong colours. During the war, he developed a personal style in landscapes and paintings of female beauties, simplifying form and line in an apparently naive manner derived from Chinese folk art and early representational works, especially of the Han period (206 bcad 220). His study of painting on ceramics in Paris at the Museum of Porcelain and Pottery prompted him to strive for effects of clarity and transparency in his use of colour. In later years his subject-matter increasingly embraced Chinese themes, ranging from Peking Opera to New Year woodblock prints. His figural works, especially of women, nevertheless retained stylizations derived from Matisse and Modigliani, and his use of Chinese traditional media was modified by his knowledge of Western watercolour, oil-painting and pastel techniques. He also showed a preference for the easel format rather than Chinese scroll compositions. Through these and other innovations, Lin Fengmian sought to release Chinese painting from the sterility he perceived in the literati painting tradition.

Writings

  • Zhongguo huihua xinlun [New theories of Chinese painting] (Beijing, 1929)

Bibliography

  • De-jinn Shiy: Contemporary Chinese Painter: Lin Feng-mien (Taipei, 1979)
  • E.J. Laing: An Index to Reproductions of Paintings by Twentieth-century Chinese Artists (Eugene, OR, 1984)