A Pioneer in Chinese Art: Lin Fengmian

Katherine20th Century Art, Artist Spotlight, ImpressionismLeave a Comment

Lin Fengmian

Lin Fengmian was a very interesting artist and man. He is accredited for being the father of modern Chinese painting. Breaking from the traditions of his time, he abandoned the typical long scrolls and instead painted on a square surface and used bright colors as opposed to a softer palette. This shift in style gave Fengmian’s work a wider international appeal. In China, at the time, his work was not yet popular.

Influenced young to appreciate art by his father and grandfather who painted and carved tombstones, he picked up a brush early and sold his first painting at the age of nine.  In 1919, when Lin Fengmian was only 20, he left for France on a work-study program. He also attended some of the arts institutes as part of his education, focusing on drawing and realistic oil painting.  He developed a keen eye for western styles of art, but also studied Chinese art by visiting the Musée Guimet of Eastern Art and Musée National de la Céramique.  In 1924, Fengmian moved to Berlin where he was exposed to northern expressionist movements.

Returning to China in 1926, he had a style very unique. Taking pieces of all that influenced him while in Europe. The bold colors may have been influenced by Matisse and other European Impressionists and his female figures, with their long faces, could have been an influence of Modigliani’s. According to Lin, the women he painted were inspired by the figures on the Song dynasty ceramics and cave paintings in Dunhuang.

Golden Autumn Painting

“Golden Autumn” at Ackerman’s Fine Art

China was at war with Japan in the Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s and Lin Fengmian was force to flee. Much of his early work was destroyed by soldiers who came to his home. This would not be the only time his work would be destroyed. During the Cultural Revolution, Lin was heavily criticized and denounced by the Gang of Four, the most powerful members of a radical political elite convicted for implementing the harsh policies directed by Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong. In 1966, Lin destroyed more of his art himself by soaking it in water and flushing it down the toilet.  He did this so it could not be used against him or his supporters.  He was still imprisoned for more than four years. After he was released and was able to finally leave for Hong Kong, he worked to recreate the paintings that were lost.

His life was filled great achievement and tragedy. As so much of his work has been lost, it is now rare. He is popular internationally and particularly in China because of his innovations and contributions to Chinese art and art education.

Learn more about Lin Fengmian by visiting his page at Ackerman’s Fine Art.



Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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