In Memory of Lin Fengmian, a Master in Contemporary Times by Zhu Ying
The news of Lin Fengmian's death in Hong Kong was unbelievable to me. It brought us great sorrow. His death is a great loss for us as well as for the art field in China.
Lin Fengmian had made outstanding contributions towards the development of art in China. He was also a significant figure in promoting art education in the country. In the 1920s, he founded the National Beiping Art College, and later headed the Hangzhou school for many years. He worked upon the model of French art schools to set up a new teaching system. Lin had also selected many talented students to go and study in France, for instance, Liu Kaiqu, Lei Guiyuan and Wang Ziyun who have become great masters nowadays.
In teaching art, Lin Fengmian believed in accepting different styles and methods. He encouraged his students to widen their scopes of views. He emphasized that beginners should build a strong foundation, while the more advanced learners should develop their own styles. Through his patient guidance, many talented painters appeared. They included Li Keran, Ai Qing, Dong Xiwen, Wang Chaowen, Yan Han and Wu Guanzhong. Some of them become famous figures overseas like Zhao Wuji, Zhu Dequn, Zhao Chunxiang and Li Lincan. All of them were our schoolmates in the 1930s.
Lin Fengmian also had great contributions in painting. Shortly after he returned from abroad, he had issued many essays urging for the development of new art. He promulgated the concepts of inheriting China's culture, and enhancing it by combining the East and West. He devoted his entire life to this goal. Even though he had experienced many difficulties and faced persecutions, his passion for art remained unchanged. Such noble and valuable integrities would surely be remembered forever.
Lin was casual and gentle, he lived a simple life and was not concerned about arguments. He said it was impossible to avoid criticism for his innovative creativities, and it was more meaningful to spend efforts on the pursuit of art and produce some profound paintings. Therefore, from the hard life in Chongqing to the times at Shanghai in the 1950s, when he was not teaching, he stayed home and painted incessantly. The magnificent scenes of dawn and dusk at Jialing River, the Miao women in Guizhou, water birds, landscapes of Jiangnan, ancient women figures and various still life had became topics for his repeated practices.
His imaginations and talents were unlimited. He extracted the rich and strong colours and the marvellous compositions from Western paintings to enrich Chinese paintings. He maintained that Chinese folk art should not be limited to ink and wash, it could be in other forms such as folk prints and the motifs on ancient bronze wares.
One time Lin and I went collecting materials at Fuxing Dao. All he had brought along was a small note pad and a box of small water colour blocks. The fishing fleet had left already and we only saw photographs and listened to some general introductions. However, after the visit, Lin produced a great painting on a night fishing scene.
He had made much efforts in improving his already exquisite skills. Once he transformed a small oil painting brush into a brush with a few hair. He was very happy and told me that he would use it to paint long lines. All these broken memories showed that Lin's great achievements in art were a result of his great knowledges and experiences, talents and hard efforts.
Several years ago, I held an exhibition in New York and met a researcher from the Cosmopolitan Museum. He appreciated Lin Fengmian's works very much, especially the lines and mysterious colours and the moods in the figure paintings. He felt that these qualities could represent Oriental art. It showed that Lin's art would gain more recognition and win greater acclaims in future.
|Han Mo magazine number 24|