The Loss of A Great Master Shen Roujian
After our parting in 1977 in Shanghai, Lin Fengmian and I met again in Hong Kong eleven years later. He was well over 90 but he did not look very old.
One morning he came to my hotel with his adopted daughter Feng Ye. I was happy as well as surprised. He had a clear and loud voice, he looked healthy and strong. We talked about how things were after we parted, our recent works and future plans. Lin did not look a bit tired. He told me he went to visit his family in Rio de Janeiro every year. I felt Lin had not changed, he was still so strong. I thought he would have a long life.
When we met again in the winter of 1990. He had been sick and was resting in a rural residence. He grew thinner but still walked well, and he kept a clear mind. He still had a lot of new ideas on artistic creativity.
He said he would go to Tokyo for his exhibition. He was confident of his health and his art.
This summer he was hospitaiized and he finally died of pnuemonia and heart disease.
Born at the turn of the century, Lin came from a poor mason's family in Mei Xian, Guangdong. In 1919, he and others like Cai Hesen sailed for France; he studied painting in Europe for six years and had outstanding achievements. His exceptional performance won the appreciation of Cai Yuanpei. When he graduated and returned in 1925, he was appointed head and professor of the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts and later the Hangzhou Art Academy. From 1951 onwards, Lin settled in Shanghai and concentrated on art creation. In 1977, he went to visit family in France and held an exhibition there. Afterwards he settled in Hong Kong. He had great contributions towards painting, painting theories and art education, and played a special role in the history of modern Chinese painting.
In as early as the 1920s, Lin Fengmian had made unprecedented study and comparison of the art of Chinese and Western paintings, and extracted their strength to form his unique new style.
Lin's most impressive qualities were his diligence and earnestness. According to himself, he was influenced by his grandfather. He had exceptional preseverance. He had practised more than a thousand times before grasping the skills of painting lady figures. His art was a purification of daily feelings and repeated attempts of artistic arrangements. Hence it contained irresistible charm and beauty. In the days of Shanghai when he was most active, he used to work at night and painted until early morning. He had done countless pieces and many of his masterpieces were produced during that period.
His figure paintings depicted ladies, characters in Chinese operas as well as farmers, fishermen, and workers. They had special kind of fun and attraction. In the years he settled in Hong Kong, he produced more paintings and broke new grounds in the art field. The opera characters he painted such as "Chinese Opera", "Fire at Red Cliff' and the landscape painting' "Huang Shan" had a striking effect through the-combination of strong colours and ink.
Lin Fengmian's works were lively and modern. Thev were full of " passion" and "force". Lin's strong feelings were released through his unique and attractive expressions. His paintings were poems. The artist's various feelings and thoughts were expressed through different means. Lin painted freely and naturally. He was well-disciplined and careful. Some of his works were colourful and rich like a symphony, such as "Maple Forest", "The Fairy Tale (Chinese Opera)" and "Glittering Utensils"; some of them were mild and soft, misty and peaceful like some moody poetry, such as "Egrets", "Morning Makeup" and "Dance".
Lin was a humble man who was not contented with his achievements. He kept searching and learning. He did not boast himself and gossip about others. He did not look for fame or wealth, and he kept a low profile to maintain a harmonious relationship with fellow artists.
Although he had great achievements, Lin was not conceited and pushy. He had assisted many students and friends but he never talked about it. Yet he never forgot it when people had offered him some help. One time someone had contributed some money to build a Lin Fengmian Art Museum and erect his bronze statute inside the art academy. Lin turned down the proposal.
In his daily life, Lin was also a simple man. He often prepared meals and did housework himself when he was in Shanghai. After coming to Hong Kong, he remained very plain. He wore ordinary jackets and often carried a bag. He lived very simply life like an ordinary man.
In his early years, Lin had written many works on art, such as "The Future of the Eastern and the Western Art"; "A New Discussion about Chinese. Painting" and "The Original Art of Human Beings" which still carried much significance and initiations. 1 met Lin in 1989 when 1 stopped hv Hong Kong to China, he told nie he was considering writing about his experiences. It could bc his autobiography. It would be a book of modern art historv in China. Unfortunately, Lin passed away before it was done.
I felt lost every time I recalled about Lin., His art and spirit would be there to encourage artists after him, and his noble image would remain on people's mind forever.
|Han Mo magazine number 24|