Lot 399
  • 399

Lee Man Fong

400,000 - 600,000 HKD
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  • Lee Man Fong
  • Up the Slope
  • Signed and stamped with a seal of the artist
  • Oil on Masonite board
  • 89 by 33 cm.; 35 by 13 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1943.


Private Collection, USA


Ho Kung-Shang, The Oil Paintings of Lee Man Fong, Art Book, Taipei, Taiwan, 1984, p.85, Plate EB7


The work is in good condition overall, as is the board, which is free from warping and chips. Upon close observation, there is evidence of light wear and handling around the edges of the painting, along with gentle networks of craquelures predominantly on the horse's nose (black paint). Under ultraviolet light inspection shows a very minor touch-up on the horse's nose and body. However, this is not visible with the naked eye. Framed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Lee Man Fong’s paintings of the Indonesian landscapes and local culture and traditions are highly regarded for their artistic significance in the emergence of the country’s modern art movement. Though he was born in China, and moved as a young child to Singapore, it was the artist’s relocation to Java in the thirties that influenced his visual language and established his creative legacy. The importance of the present painting Up The Slope is not only relevant within the artist’s own prodigious oeuvre but also in the historical context; it also serves as a homage to Xu Beihong, whom Lee Man Fong had held in high regard, while also infusing his own individuality and personal experiences.  As a distinguished art historian wrote, “Xu Beihong’s way of combining Chinese and Western elements was to incorporate Western fixed point perspective and anatomy in traditional ink painting…While paying attention to accurate anatomical proportions and introducing fixed point perspective, Xu maintained traditional compositional qualities in his pictorial spatial structure. In contrast, Lee Man Fong wove Eastern narrative aesthetics and Southeast Asian sceneries into his Western oils.1His paintings echo Chinese ink paintings in style and composition; however by juxtaposing them against Western mediums like oil and Masonite board, he created his own visual language. Bold black, calligraphic lines are swept over delicate, almost translucent layers of muted colours set against a relatively sparse background, creating a harmonious balance between shadow and light, as well as space and form. By unifying elements of the East and the West, Lee Man Fong distinguished himself from his contemporaries, who were focused on themes of social commentaries. While the horse has been perceived as a creature of nobility, power and might in the west, it is also a signifier of power, wealth and prestige in ancient China and Central Asia.

Executed in 1943, Up The Slope is an extremely rare, early work depicting a young man dressed in a tank top and shorts ascending a slope or a hill in the wilderness. The casual attire along with the quick and loose brushwork denotes a contemporary scene. Deliberately showing the back view, Lee Man Fong directs our gaze upwards; thus the painting personifies hope, while the serene surrounding points to peace and prosperity. The background is abstractly illustrated, barely suggesting steps with faint horizontal lines. The execution marks a gentle divorce from his the more realistic depictions of his later works. The present painting highlights Lee Man Fong’s love for nature and accentuates the poignancy of an unsophisticated rustic charm.

1Xu Beihong in Nanyang, April 5 - July 13 2008, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2008, p. 28 - 29