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Lee Man Fong (1913-1988), gold fish

By 31 oktober 2014No Comments

Our auction of Indonesian paintings on the 9th of December 2014 contains this painting by Lee Man Fong, 70 x 108 cm. 

In Chinese Feng Shui, eight is a lucky number. It stands for (financial) good fortune and abundance. The goldfish is a Chinese cultural symbol of wealth and abundance and celebrated as one of its most important animal symbols. The Chinese word for fish even sounds like the word for abundance.

It is not coincidental that, in the current lot, Lee Man Fong (1913-1988) painted ten fish, of which eight are goldfish. Being of Chinese-Indonesian descent, and having lived in Singaporefor 20 years, he like no other realized that symbolism is highly valued in South-East Asian culture. When he lived in Jakarta, he was so respected as an artist that he was asked to become Sukarno’s art advisor and editor of a 5-volume edition of Sukarno’s vast art collection, in 1964.

Furthermore, Lee Man Fong, after being granted a scholarship, had also lived in the Netherlandsfor 6 years, following World War II. He was introduced to Western painting during those years, and was inspired to mix Eastern and Westerm art forms, which made him a phenomenon.
In 1945, he visited Bali, and produced an impressive series of oil paintings in a Western impressionistic style, applying grey, brown and green hues in a rich impastoway, creating a non-romantisized view of his subjects. In the course of his career, he went back to his Chinese roots, painting in a much more calligraphic way, onto long-stretched boards, typically circa 100 x 50 cm, portraying all kinds of animals that are at ease, wandering around in a more or less ‘perfect world’.
His series of record-breaking panoramic paintings depicting (a quite idyllic) Bali, typically coined ‘Bali Life’, are executed in a similar way. This style of painting has become Man Fong’s trademark.

The current lot can be considered a classic example of Lee Man Fong’s oeuvre of portraying animals.
Light runs through the aquatic plants at the water’s surface, while the vegetation and rocks in the lower part of the painting are more subdued, creating a deep contrast with the fluent, brightly coloured oranges and pinks of the goldfish, that seem to be weightless, floating without a care in the world, as if they are aware of their symbolic meaning.
More information about our auctions of Indonesian paintings:

René de Visser
Zeeuws Veilinghuis
Herengracht 74
4331 PX  Middelburg
The Netherlands
0031 (0)118-650680