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Beauty Defies Tyranny
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About the object

Lin Fengmian left the National Beijing Fine Art School and settled in Shanghai by the end of 1940s, where he gained the personal space to develop his own art. At the time, Guan Liang, a veteran teacher of the National Beijing Fine Art School, happened to be living in Shanghai also. Under Guans influence, Lin Fengmian quickly became a devotee of Beijing opera. The two men often went to Beijing operas together and incorporated them into their art. These opera-themed works are testaments to their friendship and represented an artistic breakthrough for Lin Fengmian.  Profound meaning in subtle depictions: the spirit of resistance\nWhereas Guan Liang represented the poses and expressions of stage characters in a childlike but faithful manner, Lin Fengmian was touched by the resonances between operas and his own life. As a result, Lins works tended to focus more on the spiritual essence of Beijing operas than the effects of the actual performances themselves.\nBeauty Defies Tyranny is a canonical Beijing opera. In this story, the evil Qin-dynasty minister Zhao Gao steals the eponymous sword from the family of Kuang Hong, one of the founding ministers of the Qin empire. With this sword, Zhao assassinates the second emperor of the Qin and shifts the blame to Kuang. Zhaos daughter Yanrong, who is the wife of Kuang Hongs son, feigns madness to win the sympathy and trust of the empress. Then she exposes her fathers plot to usurp the throne, proving Kuang Hongs innocence and returning the sword to him. Lin Fengmians Beauty Defies Tyranny (Lot 1016) depicts the classic climactic moment in this opera: Zhao Yanrongs feigning madness in the golden hall of the palace. In the painting, Zhao Yanrong, accompanied by an attendant, raises her arms in a dramatic pose and allows her robes to flutter. Her expression, however, is solemn and confident, radiating a moral charisma. By contrast, Zhao Gao is presented in geometric abstraction and wearing a formalised operatic mask, hinting at his evil intentions and the darkness of the times. This painting expresses a spirit of resistance towards adversity and authority, a core value of artistic modernism.\nThe fusion of east and west: a language of spatial-temporal juxtapositions\nThroughout his life, Lin Fengmian tirelessly sought an artistic language that harmonised Eastern and Western aesthetics. But he felt that simply studying other artists works without being grounded in ones own practical experience would result in superficial art. His discovery of Beijing opera as a subject resolved this problem. Beijing opera gave him a way to understand cubism and other international modernist currents, as well as a way to re-examine spatial and temporal relationships, from the firm standpoint of traditional Chinese culture.\nLin boldly departs from the demands of realist representation and incorporates the Chinese folk arts of paper-cutting and shadow theatre into a cubist composition. He flattens Zhao Yanrong and her attendant, and articulates Zhao Gao in the background in deforming, repeating, and layered abstract geometric forms. Incorporating figuration and abstraction in the same painting, he juxtaposes different spaces and times, and ingeniously captures the characters physical movements while maintaining a sense of temporal and narrative continuity. Lins use of colour is inspired by the bold and luxurious costumes and stage sets in Beijing opera. He applies black, red, and white in large and flat passages, and complements them with details in blue and yellow. The strong chromatic contrasts, bold lines, and interweaving of colour blocks recall the fauvism of Matisse. Furthermore, he creates chiaroscuro in Zhao Yanrongs dress to suggest the translucency of shadow theatre, emphasising the rhythm of the characters movement and dramatizing the spatial-temporal conflations in the scene.\nIn the nascent globalised art world, Lin Fengmian discovered brand-new artistic possibilities and broke open barriers between East and West. His art was passionate and dynamic even while preserving the introspectiveness and subtlety of eastern aesthetics. This painting was included in The Collected Works of Lin Feng Mian Vol I and The Complete Works of Lin Fengmian Vol II published by Tianjin Peoples Fine Art Press and China Youth Press respectively. The books are testaments to this modernist masters lofty achievements and to the surpassing significance of his artistic language and the spiritual content and philosophical worldview that it embodied.\nSigned and dated 1947 in Chinese, stamped with the artist's seal 
HK
HK
HK

medium

Ink and colour on paper

creator

Lin, Fengmain

condition

The work is overall in very good condition. "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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

68.5 by 65.2 cm; 27 by 25 ⅝ in. 

literature

Gu Ziling ed., The Collected Works of Lin Feng Mian Vol I, Tianjin People's Fine Arts Publishing, Tianjin, 1994, p. 220 Yang Hualin ed., The Complete Works of Lin Fengmian Vol II, China Youth Press, Beijing, 2014, p. 91

provenance

Important Private Asian Collection

signedDate

Signed and dated 1947 in Chinese, stamped with the artist's seal 

artist_range_end

1991

artist_range_start

1900

consignmentDesignation

Property from an important private asian collection

creator_nationality_dates

1900-1991


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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