Lee Man Fong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • The paintings of Lee Man Fong feature tender vignettes of quotidian life, those lived by the indigenous peoples of Indonesia: steeped in dulcet tones of sepia, muted greens and earthlike reds, his works capture Edenic scenes of village life. Lee relocated to the island nation of Indonesia in 1932, and spent most of his life in Bali, dedicating his opus to becoming a chronicle of, if not an ode to, the archipelago.


    Lee’s stylistic mastery of East-meets-West is evident in his paintings. Having left his native Guangzhou to move to Singapore at the age of three and later establishing various careers in Indonesia in his adulthood, a young Lee met the great Chinese Modern Master Xu Beihong in Jakarta in 1941. Xu, recognising that the young artist’s ‘works have the power to move people’, encouraged Lee to hone his artistic skills further to ‘aspire to be a great master of the world’. Classically trained in the medium of Chinese ink, Lee went on to receive a prestigious scholarship from the Dutch government to study in the Netherlands, and a valuable experience to examine the Dutch masters was thus underway. It is this fusion of the delicate and economical use of line found in Chinese ink paintings, and the Dutch sensibility in treatment of light and shadow as a plane on which to convey human emotion, that underpins Lee Man Fong’s oeuvre. Lee formulated his own unique technique of handling the malleable Western medium of oil with a pared down elegance embodied in Chinese ink, and infused his paintings with an otherworldly translucency.



    Gabriël Metsu, A Woman Seated at a Window, early 1660s

    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


    In both Portrait of a Seated Lady (Lot 228) and Portrait of a Seated Woman (Lot 229), two elegantly sat female figures are surrounded by simple pastoral imagery. In a pointed tribute to his Chinese roots in Lee’s choice of an elongated vertical painting, both maidens are backlit with a soft glow, each framed by lightly rendered tree trunks and branches reminiscent of the Chinese painterly style, as mottled inky tufts of grass cradle their bare feet. In stark contrast, the women themselves are firmly depicted in oil, their postures graceful and their features delicate. As if oblivious to their audiences, both women gaze beyond the pictorial frame with demure serenity, not unlike models oft-portrayed in the canons of Dutch masters. The artist has successfully captured the unfettered sophistication of Bali life through his amalgamation of divergent styles, allowing us a glimpse into tranquil, bucolic scenes that transcend both time and place.



    Xu Beihong, Plum, Bamboo, and Rock, 1942

    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Cologne, Lempertz Auction, June 1998, lot 128
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Portrait of a Seated Lady

signed 'Lee Man Fong [in Chinese]' and stamped with an artist's seal upper left
oil on board
102 x 49.8 cm. (40 1/8 x 19 5/8 in.)

Full Cataloguing

HK$600,000 - 800,000 

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022