The Largest Ever Work by Lin Fengmian to Come to Market: Dunhuang Musicians Leads Bonhams Chinese Paintings Sale in June

The Largest Ever Work by Lin Fengmian to Come to Market: Dunhuang Musicians Leads Bonhams Chinese Paintings Sale in June

Hong Kong—Bonhams presents Dunhuang Musicians, the largest-ever painting by Chinese modern master Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) to appear on the market, at its Fine Chinese Paintings Sale on 2 June 2022 in Hong Kong. Measuring 1.6 metres wide and 1.3 metres in height, this monumental and exceedingly rare painting is the finest example from his pinnacle period in the 1950s. It is believed that only a handful of works from this period have survived to this date, with four of them already in the permanent collection of The Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy. Dunhuang Musicians portrays ten enchanting musicians – the biggest celebration ever depicted by Lin – playing on various musical instruments. Kept in private hands with a trusted provenance and out of the public eye for more than 60 years, it will now be available for public viewing at Bonhams Hong Kong saleroom from 21 May to 2 June. The spectacular painting carries an estimate of HK$2,800,000-3,800,000.

Dunhuang Musicians

Click here to watch the video about Dunhuang Musicians

Lin Fengmian and Dunhuang Series

Lin Fengmian stands tall as a pioneer and one of the most influential artists in the 20th century China, tirelessly pushing the boundary between East and West. In 1952, Lin wrote in a letter about his passion for what he had seen in Dunhuang, an ancient oasis town located on the western edge of Gobi Desert in China, where hundreds of cave temples were decorated with Buddhist murals. Lin regarded the mural as the finest form of art from the Orient. Lin also found it almost impossible to capture by hand the colours applied between the lines, as well as varying shades of colours in between. He even went on to argue that it was something many great western artists, including Paul Gauguin, had long hoped to achieve but still hadn’t succeeded. Having said that and after many an attempt, Lin finally achieved what he deemed ‘impossible’ in Dunhuang Musicians.

Dunhuang Musicians – A Singular Masterpiece

Painted on four connected pieces of xuan paper measuring 130cm x 40cm each, Dunhuang Musicians features an ensemble of ten musicians, each of them distinct in details: Lin’s meticulous treatment of their dresses, their facial expressions and their complexion. Individually, each musician looks different, and yet together they form a harmonious ensemble whose music can be felt visually with Lin’s fluid and undulating use of lines.

Dunhuang Musicians

Iris Miao, Bonhams Consulting Head of Chinese Paintings, commented: “Lin Fengmian might have borrowed inspiration from Matisse and Modigliani on the female form, but the dignified yet graceful disposition of these women is essentially Chinese. Monumental in size, perfect in composition, fully explored in subject, and sound in condition, Dunhuang Musicians is undoubtedly Lin’s singular masterpiece of unparalleled importance.”

Dunhuang Musicians, alongside three other paintings by Lin that are offered in the 2 June sale, was previously in the collection of Mrs. Marcella Geeraert. In 1948, Marcella’s husband was appointed as Branch Manager of the Bank of America in Shanghai, where they stayed for the next seven and a half years before returning to the States in September 1955. Later in the 1950s, the couple also stayed in Beirut, Lebanon and Tehran, Iran, taking with them these four paintings wherever they went. A photo even shows that Dunhuang Musicians was hung front and centre in their Beirut home. The four paintings accompanied Mrs. Geeraert until her last days in 1993, and were subsequently handed down to her sister’s family. Never seen in public for more than 60 years, they are now finally making a market debut in June 2022.

The three other paintings, also created by Lin in the 1940-50s, from Mrs. Marcella Geeraert are:
Village (estimate: HK$600,000-800,000)
• Singing in Harmony (estimate: HK$500,000-700,000)
• Opera Figures (estimate: HK$1,200,000-1,800,000)

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