Lot 188
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Indonesian Art Sale 2018
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Lee Man Fong (1913-1988)

Two carp

signed and dated 'summer of 1950' in black and stamped in red (upper right)

oil on board, 92,5x33,5 cm

Provenance:
-Bought in the early 50's, thence by descent to the present owner.

Lee Man Fong is one of the most renowned artists of Southeast Asia. His work is highly sought after and can be found internationally in both public and private collections In 2013, his painting ‘Bali Life’ was sold for almost € 4 million at auction in Hong Kong, which is one of the highest prices ever paid at auction for a work by a Southeast Asian artist. Lee Man Fong’s ability to blend East and West in his artworks was the key to his success.

The artist was born in Guang Zhou, China and moved with his family to Singapore when he was three years old. As a boy, he started sketching in the Chinese brush painting technique and when he was 16 he was introduced to oil painting. When his father died, the young artist earned a living for his family drawing billboards and designing advertisements. In 1932 he moved to Jakarta and won great acclaim in the advertising business, but he continued to pursue an artistic career as well. In 1941 he became a full-time artist. During the Japanese Occupation of the Dutch East Indies, Man Fong was arrested by the Japanese military government because of his involvement with a revolutionary group. In 1942 he spent six months in jail. From 1946 to 1952 Lee Man Fong lived in The Netherlands after having been granted a scholarship by acting governor-general Huib van Mook. He studied European masters and had various exhibitions in Amsterdam and The Hague. Lee Man Fong came back to Indonesia as a mature artist. His work was greatly appreciated by President Sukarno and in 1961 he became art consultant to the Indonesian presidential palace and chief curator of its collection. In 1967 the artist returned to Singapore at the request of his aged mother and stayed there for the remaining 20 years of his life. He was rewarded with great fame and solo exhibitions. In 1988 Lee Man Fong passed away in Kolibah, Jakarta as the prominent artist he still is.

In this lively underwater scene with a pair of carp, the influence of Chinese calligraphy is clearly visible. The seemingly effortless brush technique and the elegance of the two fish reminds one of the strikingly simple lines of Chinese shuǐ mò huà (or sumi-e ) painting. The words for ‘fish’ and ‘abundance’ are pronounced the same in Chinese (鱼, yu) so the fish in Chinese culture symbolises wealth. Fish also symbolise harmony, marital happiness and reproduction because they multiply rapidly and sometimes swim in pairs. Fish are also an important symbol in the Buddhist religion and are among the auspicious signs on the Footprints of Buddha. The fish on the Buddha footprints signifies freedom from all restraints. The most popular fish motif found in Chinese art and culture is that of the carp or koi. The Chinese carp has numerous symbolic values within Chinese culture. It is a powerful symbol of strength, energy and perseverance, demonstrated by its ability to swim against currents and upstream. It also symbolises good fortune, prosperity and courage. The scales and whiskers of the carp resemble that of a dragon, another great symbol of power in China.

€ 30.000,00
€ 40.000,00
€ 50.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 50.000

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