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Chinese art that survived war and turmoil on sale in London

By Bo Leung in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-05-10 00:43
Lady with a Mirror is one of the pieces expected to sell for the most money at auction. Photo provided to China Daily

Work by a Chinese pioneer of modern art, which survived the Japanese occupation during World War II and the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), will be auctioned in London next week.

Lin Fengmian's art, which blends traditional Chinese and modern Western styles, will be sold during Sotheby's Important Chinese Art sale on Wednesday and during Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale on Thursday.

Some pieces are expected to fetch more than 250,000 pounds ($339,500).

Lin was born in 1900, in Guangdong province, and moved to France when he was around 20, on a work-study program.

He learned French and studied at Dijon Art College and the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

His art was influenced by impressionism, fauvism, expressionism and cubism, which he combined into his modern Chinese painting style.

After returning to China in 1925, Lin became director of the National Beijing Fine Art School. In 1928, at the age of 29, he founded the Hangzhou National College of Art, which is now the China Academy of Art.

Japanese soldiers destroyed many of his earlier paintings at his home when Japan invaded China in the 1930s.

During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), Lin destroyed some of his own art by soaking pieces in water and flushing them down the toilet. During that time, he was imprisoned for four years.

Cormorants are a common feature in his work, which combines Western and traditional Chinese elements. Photo for China Daily

In 1977, he was granted travel papers to go to Brazil and reunite with his wife and daughter.

He ended up living in Hong Kong, where he remained until his death in 1991.

Colin Sheaf, head of Asian art at Bonhams, said Lin became prolific after he moved to Hong Kong, where his work proved very popular with Western visitors.

"His personal style is very recognizable, partly because the repertory of his images is pretty limited as he responded to the commercial preferences of collectors in Hong Kong during the 80s," Sheaf said. "Richly-dressed actors, flocks of cormorants in the twilight, languid Modigliani-like ladies in flowing Chinese robes, thickly-wooded landscapes in a range of vivid yellows and greens; these were his stock-in-trade, normally brush-on-paper, rarer in oil on canvas."

Bonhams is offering a collection of Lin's ink-on-paper paintings thought to have been acquired by the mother of the current owner when she studied with the artist in Shanghai.

Highlights at the Sotheby's auction include Lin's Lady with a Mirror, which is likely to sell for between 150,000 pounds and 250,000 pounds.

Noting the painting's provenance, Sotheby's said it was purchased directly from the artist in the early 1960s.

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