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Lin Fengmian / Lin Shaoqiong

December 25, 2014

Lin Fengmian (Lin Shaoqiong, alias Fengming) was a Chinese artist, born on November 22, 1900 in Meixian, Guangdong, China. He was a Chinese painter and art educator who sought to blend the best of both Eastern and Western art, and is considered a pioneer of modern Chinese painting. He was also an important innovator in the area of Chinese art education.

The son of a painter, Lin learned traditional Chinese painting techniques as a child. After graduating from high school, he moved to France, where he studied European painting at the Dijon Art College and the Ècole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1922 his oil painting The Autumn was exhibited at the prestigious Salon d’Automne in Paris. The following year his Chinese ink paintings were again shown at the Salon d’Automne, and 42 of his paintings were displayed in the Exhibition of Chinese Ancient and Modern Art at Strasbourg, France.

In 1925 Lin returned to Beijing, where he had his first solo exhibition one year later. He strove to capture the essence of both Eastern and Western art in order to achieve a new synthesis. Lin also studied the stone engravings of the Han dynasty as well as the porcelain drawings of the Song and Yuan dynasties. He also emulated aspects of the distortion and simplification of Chinese folk art in his use of rich colors and bold, rapid brushstrokes. Into this he integrated the emotive qualities of European masters such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Rouault. The resulting rhythm of clear but changeable light and intense sentiment became known as the Lin Fengmian Style.

In 1927 Lin became a member of the Committee for the National Art Education and helped to establish the National Art College, now known as the Zhejiang College of Fine Arts. In 1938 he became director of the National Art Academy, an amalgamation of the Hangzhou and Beiping art academies. Lin was a pivotal figure in shaping the development of Western art training in China. He went on to teach some of the most renowned painters in 20th-century China, including Zhao Wuji, Li Keran, Wu Guanzhong, and Xi Dejin. He also published numerous articles that explored the interrelation of Eastern and Western art and discussed the future of Chinese painting.

In 1966 the artist was targeted by the Cultural Revolution. Fearing prosecution, Lin destroyed many of his experimental works but was nonetheless imprisoned for four years. In 1977, he was allowed to leave China, on the assumption he would reunite with his family in Brazil. He instead headed for Hong Kong, where he remained until his death. After his release, Lin slowly began to recreate many of his previously destroyed works.

Lin Fengmian died on August 12, 1991 in Hong Kong.