Lot 1039
  • 1039


500,000 - 1,000,000 HKD
2,250,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Wu Song
  • signed in Chinese and stamped with the artist's seal 
  • ink and colour on paper 
  • 34.5 by 35 cm; 13 ⅝ by 13 ¾ in. 
executed in 1980s


Important Private Asian Collection 


Shanghai, Shanghai Art Museum, The Approach of Lin Fengmian: The Centenary of Lin Fengmian, November 1999


Collection of The Modern Chinese Masters - Lin Feng Mian, Jinxiu Cultural Publishing House, Taipei, 1993, p. 190
Xu Jiang, ed., The Approach of Lin Fengmian: The Centenary of Lin Fengmian, China Academy of Art Press, Hangzhou, 1999, p. 289
Du Ziling, ed., The Collected Works of Lin Feng Mian Vol. II, Tianjin People's Fine Arts Publishing, Tianjin, 1994, p. 202
Lang Shaojun, Chinese Famous Artists - Lin Fengmian, Artist Publishing, Taipei, 2004, p. 169
Yang Hualin, ed., The Complete Works of Lin Fengmian Vol. III, China Youth Press, Beijing, 2014, p. 150

Catalogue Note

Wu Song: A 1980s Spiritual Metaphor of Opera Characters Lin Fengmian’s life was one of turmoil and instability. This caused artist much suffering, but in later years led he drew upon these bitter experiences to gain profound insights. In 1977, the artist moved to Hong Kong, where he led a life of simplicity and tranquility, eschewing virtually all casual social activities. Artistically, however, he continued to challenge himself, and consequently reaching a dazzling new artistic domain. Wu Song (Lot 1039) was created in the 1980s, a period during which he felt the most at ease and free. The composition was an extension of the exploration pattern in the 1950s and 60s, and seeks breakthroughs in the formal changes in human figures and the movement dynamics on stage, expressing a breathtaking and broader state of mind.

Wu Song depicts the well-known story of Peking opera character Wu Song who killed his sister-in-law in order to avenge his older brother. The moral of the story was that the virtuous shall be hailed and the evil punished. The present lot demonstrates a richer style than the artist’s earlier works on theater-related subjects. Comparing this work with another lot in the same sale, Lotus Lantern (Lot 1040) from the 50s-60s, the characterization had become more freely expressive over time, and the background details had been largely omitted. Furthermore, the hues in his earlier works were intricately transforming, while the present lot features strongly saturated, contrasting black, red and green, with color blocks executed with large brushstrokes in a Cubist composition. As artist’s living situation changed, he in turn became more freely expressive, and his emotions were given unprecedented release. Consequently, Lin progressed in expressing bold and raw energy never seen before. At this point, Lin underwent a shift in creative core, moving toward the concepts virtue and evil, strength and beauty, as well as history and reality, while drifting away from his earlier fascination with classical theatre and glamorous stage costumes. His treatment of theatre subjects completely transformed into symbols, expressing his internal emotions, and the artistic expression of spirit and emotions reaching an absolute peak. British scholar and Oxford University Michael Sullivan, who focused his research on modern Chinese paintings, highly praised Lin’s later works in a 1995 article:

“From one lyrical, decorative, and richly poetic extreme to another tragic, explosive and melancholic extreme – which modern Chinese artist is able to demonstrate such a broad range? As an artist, Lin Fengmian…his painting shows more vitality and intense emotions than any other period.”

In the later years of Lin’s life, these profound insights led him to return to basics, and his paintings reflect an undeniable optimism and resolve. Upon close examination, the work presents integrity and kindness, as well as the artist’s unvarnished honesty in his art. In his broad and freely expressive brush strokes, the pain from an earlier era of the artist’s life gently breaks upon the canvas, while Lin’s brush spreads a solace for the soul.