On Lin Fengmian Ding Xiyuan
The question of whether Lin Fengmian's works could be considered as Chinese paintings involved the definition of Chinese paintings. There had never been any clearcut rule on Chinese paintings. In fact, it was a term referring to the opposite of Western paintings. Because of the popularity of literati paintings of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, people usèti to call those traditional Chinese paintings.
Lin Fengmian's art was developed from Chinese paintings. He copied from the "Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual" when he started to paint at 8 or 9. Gradually he grasped the principles of Chinese paintings. Besides, he had special sentiments towards stone engravings, probably because his grandfather was a mason. Lin took a great deal from folk art such as pottery wares, folk decorations and patterns, ancient lacquer ware and papercuts. Later he reformed Chinese paintings audaciously and brought in themes from Western paintings such as landscapes, still life and nude figures, yet the inner part was still typical lines and ink from Chinese paintings.
Lin did not support using calligraphy on paintings. He would rather "paint". His life, experiences and aesthetic values led to his rebellion against literati paintings. His works were filled with colours with no blank space. There was no inscription, even if there was, it was just the artist's signature. Lin's works had never been anywhere near the ink and brush form of traditional Chinese paintings.
He also took a lot from Western paintings, such as the smooth lines, the styles of Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso and Modigliani. It represented the interchange of Chinese and Western paintings at the time. Down deep inside, Lin Fengmian was still Oriental. For instance, he often outlined the contact part between the landscapes or still life objects and the backgrounds. It was evolved from the stone engraving practise associated with his grandfather. One of the internal forces and kev content in Lin's works was his feelings towards his native hometown and his grandfather.
Lin Fengmian was famous for his intense, rich colours. IIe loved big masses of overlapping colours and attained beauty from these layering. His paintings were strikingly colourful; the changes of colour tones were a revelation of the artist's moods, experiences and the things he encountered.
Lin's works were also marked by an explicit consciousness of sex. His lady paintings displayed an elegant and classical mood. These lady paintings also reflected Lin's mind, ideals and aesthetic values. Many of his lady paintings were closely linked to his daughter, while Lin's nun paintings done in his old age were connected with his French wife. His wife and daughter emigrated out of China in 1956 and Lin Fengmian lived in Shanghai alone. This was perhaps the reason for his many sad and moody lady paintings.
Lin's large amount of nude paintings were dated in as early as the 1940s. Lin . was probably the most outstanding Chinese painter of nude paintings. They were noble and graceful. The women were well, strong and lively. He also painted nude women of a different category in his "Agony". This showed that Lin's nude paintings were meaningful.
Lin's contributions towards Chinese painting lay in his adjustment and harmonization of Chinese and Western art. He brought from modern Western painting ideas of visual effects and strong rhythms, and applied them in his works successfully.
The peak period of Lin Fengmian's creativity was in the 1960s. His works at that time were forceful and pressing, they were full of vitality. In the late 1970s when he moved to Hong Kong, his colours were even stronger. He either painted nude figures, or changed the picture size into two smaller squares, there was a lack of innovative -energy. His inspirations seemed to have dried up gradually. Repeatedly he worked on old drafts, as if to relive his past dreams. Works at an even later stage such as "Christ", "Agony" and "Nightmares" were indeed a reprint of his earlier themes. Another point was that most of his works were relatively small in size. He did not do any gigantic size paintings which required a grand atmosphere. This was a small defect.
On the whole, it is undeniable that Lin Fengmian had great and long lasting impact on the contemporary world of Chinese painting. His name shall pass down along the history of art.
|Han Mo magazine number 24|