Two Nuns

Lin Fengmian Chinese

Not on view

Many artists who studied in European academies in the 1920s and 1930s sought a knowledge of anatomy, perspective and chiaroscuro—techniques peripheral to Chinese art training. Some of these students for instance, Xu Beihong, came away from Europe with academic styles of painting as well as academic techniques.

Lin Fengmian, who went to Paris in 1922, found academic realism lacking in expressiveness and gravitated to the Impressionists and the Fauves, with their strong colors and semi-abstract forms. He exhibited in the first show of Chinese art students in France in 1924. Four years later, he assumed directorship of the National Academy of Art and made Hangzhou the locus for study of modern Western art in China before the war. In 1937 he took students with him to the wartime capital of Zhongging.

Lin's indebtedness to Matisse is clear in Two Nuns, but his reasons for finding Matisse so compelling lie in his training in the principles of Chinese art: economy of line, decorative value of pattern and use of empty space as form.

Lin, married to a French woman, was accused during the Cultural Revolution of spying against China and was jailed. After the Cultural Revolution he left China for Hong Kong.

Two Nuns, Lin Fengmian (Chinese, 1900–1991), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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