Lot 1045
  • 1045


2,600,000 - 4,500,000 HKD
3,250,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Richard Lin
  • signed and titled in English, dated 1968-1969 on the reverse  
  • oil on canvas
  • 96.3 by 102.2 cm; 38 by 40 ¼ in. 
Marlborough Fine Art, Galerie Withofs and Guillaume Campo labels affixed to the reverse 


Marlborough Fine Art, London
Important Private European Collection 


Brussels, Galerie Withofs, Richard Lin, December 1970 

Catalogue Note

“White is the most mundane of colors, and the greatest of all colors; it is the most colorless and the most colorful; it is the most noble color and the most common color; it is the most tranquil color, and the saddest color too.” 
Richard Lin
After World War II, abstraction was the key trend in the international art world, and Asian artists such as Richard Lin, Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun, and Hsiao Chin brought the aesthetic foundations of their traditional culture to Europe, where they carried on bold, pioneering experiments in Chinese painting and developed their own distinctive abstract aesthetics in the 1960s and 1970s. Richard Lin’s artistic ideas corresponded with those of Malevich and Mondrian, as he advocated distance from external forms found in nature, and sought out a spiritual and philosophical realm that unified man and nature, through compositions of basic geometric shapes. As a result, he stood out from fellow Asian artists who primarily worked in Lyrical Abstraction, and he very quickly came to prominence in the post-war European and American art scene.

Yellow, White and Grey (Lot 1045), offered this season at Sotheby’s, is originally from Marlborough Fine Art, the world-class gallery that represented Lin in the 1960s. With the gallery’s planning and support, Lin’s artistic ideals and life began to merge, and painting became an integral part of his life. When he created this work in 1968 to 1969, the pure white geometric composition, which alludes to Eastern thought, reflected his approach on the forward progress into the next stage in his art and life, and ways of rebuilding his life.

Floating Squares: White Series Fully Arrives

Made at a critical juncture in Lin’s life, Yellow, White and Grey features vague grey and white squares as the background, with fine lines of pure white, different grey tones, and bright yellow as the uppermost layer. Blocks in a deeper grey are interspersed among them, and the geometric shapes are overlapping yet methodically arranged. Lin seems to conjure a floating square window, and the extreme rationality conceals his earnest hopes for the future. This open window presages the artist future in opening up another creative realm. In the course of making this painting, he had already found a way forward. In 1969, he left his teaching job in London to move to a romantic village in Wales. Lin lived the reclusive life of an ancient literatus; his family planted in the spring, went to the seaside in the summer, enjoyed the leaves in the autumn, and admired the snow in the winter. The inspiration for the long thin lines may very likely have come from changes in the weather during his time in Wales, and they seem to represent a boundless dream world free from the concerns of fame and fortune.

In the context of Richard Lin’s artistic career, this painting foreshadows the full development of his White Series in the 1970s, showing its importance. The painting focuses on investigating the brightness of colors and the visual effects produced from the collisions between geometric lines. The entire image strikes a consistent balance, giving the impression of a sacred space. Enveloped in permeable fields of white, the work produces an intimate interaction with the viewer. White oil paint is the only ground, extended vertically into an abundant monochrome field. The extreme abstraction of the work offers a chance to arrive at a new understanding of the artist. White has Zen and naturalist implications in the East, expressing the overarching Daoist idea of nothingness, which was the result of the continual subtraction in Richard Lin’s creative process. A scholar once asked him, “When you subtract color and form, what are you left with?”

Richard Lin replied, “You subtract until you’re left with the thing you wanted.”