My Recollections of Lin Fengmian by Zhu Huaixin

 

1. Our early acquaintance

I met Lin Fengmian when I was enrolled in the Hangzhou Art Academy. Lin was president of the academy. One time I followed some higher class students to a serene little house at the foot of the Geling mountain. It was Lin's residence. There were many classical pictures and folk art decorations, and the house was filled with an artistic atmosphere. In the courtyard, there were many colourful cockscomb flowers while there were many oil paintings of cockscombs in the house. Lin had grasped the vitality of these ordinary blossoms and recreated their beauty and liveliness in his works.

One of the houses in the campus had some large scale oil paint­ings hung on the walls. They were done by Lin and they depicted ordinary topics such as the ocean and fishermen. However, the techniques and colours were different from those cockscomb paintings, they were ancient, profound and mysterious, showing a beauty of opaqueness.

Lin's educational ideals were carried out through his paintings in the 1930s, his different ways of expression and various teaching facilities. Hence his students received a macro art education and initiation of the world.

 

2. Watching Lin paint

Lin Fengmian often stayed home and painted. In the early summer of 1977, I had the chance to see him paint. At that time, the Shanghai Painting Institute had held a seminar of Lin Fengmian's art demonstration and talks. I went to the institute early and sat next to Lin.

Before he started, Lin smiled to the audience. He bowed his head, thought for a while, drew in the air with his fingers, and started to paint quickly. He drew some cockscombs. The flowers were rich and colourful. He drew the leaves, vase and background without taking a break. Someone in the crowd asked him why was it that when he made changes, the picture would not look messy. Lin assured us that as painting was for expressing the painter's feelings. When he felt there was the need to revise, the changes were meant to present a richer and more lively picture. Lin had excelled in discovering beauty and using various means to present beauty. He did not restrict himself with rules and formed his unique style.

 

3. Our last meeting

My last meeting with Lin was at his Nanchang Road residence in Shanghai. Yu Yunjie, Zhang Quan and I went to call on Lin. He had some guests in his inner room, so we chatted in his studio. He lived by himself but his place was neat and tidy, bright and pleasant. The setting was rather simple but they looked harmonious and peaceful, like his paintings.

Our visit seemed to bring many happy memories to Lin Feng­mian. He was glad and excited, and he talked a lot. He told us, "It is a good thing to go to different artistic environments and see the works of other schools of artists or paintings of different styles. Only when one absorbs others' strength and essences could one improve his art."

"The life of an artist is like a silkworm, which belches silk and weaves a cocoon. In the end, it bites open the silk cocoon and comes out as a beautiful and colourful butterfly and flies out freely." Lin added and smiled at us. In fact, Lin Fengmian himself was the beautiful butterfly which had created beauty for the world and winged his way through the history of contemporary art.

 
Han Mo magazine number 24
 

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