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Lin Fengmian (China 1900‑1991)

Two dancing ladies – from the Chinese Opera series

To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design & Watches 14 – 16 May 2024

Lot 547 Lin Fengmian (China 1900‑1991). Two dancing ladies – from the Chinese Opera series. Signed and with the artist’s seal lower left. Gouache and ink on paper, 67.5 x 66.5 cm.


1.000.000 – 1.500.000 SEK
€ 86.000 – 129.000


A Swedish private collection, acquired directly from the artist in his home in Shanghai by the present owner in April 1966.

As a charismatic pioneer of the Chinese modern art, Lin Fengmian represents a uniting force that brilliantly combined the Chinese and Western styles, subjects and methods and made a huge impact on the following generations of Chinese painters. Living a harsh life, Fengmian had to fight for his artistic and human rights, making his journey of life beset with difficulties and tragedies that affected him deeply. Today, regarded as an eminent avant-garde master of the Chinese modernism and as on the most important artists of his generation, Fengmian’s paintings are highly appreciated for their unique style, technique and expressions. 

Already at a young age, Fengmian had to fight the difficulties of life. As the son of a painter, he was born into poverty in Guangdong in the year of 1900. At the age of seven, a groundbreaking tragedy that forever was to follow him occurred, when he in horror witnessed his mother being sold into servitude. As a child he had learned the traditional Chinese techniques of painting from his father, and after graduating from high school, he got the opportunity to move to France for further studies through a scholarship. After some time in Marseilles and Dijon, he continued to Paris where he enrolled the École des Beaux Arts. The years in France was of great importance when he discovered the Post-Impressionists, the Fauvists and the Primitivists and he participated at the Salon d’Automne in 1922 and 1923. Further on, he continued to Berlin where he was radicalized by the German Expressionists Erich Heckel and Emil Nolde. He found love in the Austrian Elisa von Roda but the love story was shortly ended by the second tragedy of Fengmian’s life, when his wife and their new-born child both died. Certainly, this event had a momentous impact on his artistic creativity and forever changed his person.

The present owner’s apartment in Washington D.C. 1969-1973 and the present owner’s apartment in Paris 1985-1991.
The present owner’s apartment in Washington D.C. 1969-1973 and the present owner’s apartment in Paris 1985-1991.

Upon the return to China and Beijing in 1925, Fengmian started to establish himself as the new synthesis of the Eastern and Western art, committed to revitalizing the Chinese art through education. Initially he became the president of the National Beijing Fine Arts School and after that founded the Hangzhou National College of Art, where he taught Western style painting to the following younger generation of Chinese students, which included Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun and Wu Guanzhong. Perhaps one can say that Fengmian surely did fulfill his mission of life, when looking at the outstanding career of these artists.

Not only the personal life of Lin Fengmian was followed by tragedies, so was unfortunately also his artistic life, which included the destruction of many of his works at several occasions. At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, Fengmian’s studio was ransacked by soldiers and many of his paintings were attacked. Later on, during the Cultural Revolution, Fengmian himself chose to destroy all of his paintings to prevent them for being used against him, Wu Guanzhong wrote in 1992 in the preface of The paintings of Lin Fengmian that “Most of his artworks were soaked in the water basin or bathtub and flushed away as pulp.” Shortly before that, in April 1966, Ling Fengmian was visited in his studio in the outskirts of Shanghai by a person working at the Swedish embassy in Beijing together with a friend. They were met by this well-dressed artist, looking very international wearing western clothes and speaking fluently in French. In the studio the present painting was chosen and bought, and has thereafter followed its owner around the world to London, Washington, New Zeeland, Paris and back home to Sweden. In the following months, during the Cultural Revolution, Lin Fengmian was criticized, persecuted and tortured because of his fascination of the opera and other ‘intellectual’ pursuits that was used against him and eventually led to the fact that he was imprisoned during four and a half years. After the death of Mao Zedong the artists of China were given some artistic creative freedom, and in 1977 Fengmian was allowed to leave China to settle in Hong Kong where he remained through the rest of his life until his death in 1991 at the age of 90 years.

Today, the works of Lin Fengmian can be found in many prominent museum collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. 

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Sofie Bexhed


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Magnus Bexhed

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