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Lee Man Fong (1913-1988) – ‘Two doves’

Lee Man Fong (1913-1988)
‘Two doves’, signed and dated ‘35 – Batavia’ upper right in Chinese,
board, 122 x 60 cm.

In many cultures, doves represent peace. Also in the Chinese culture this is the case, as well as being a symbol of long life. 

Being of Chinese-Indonesian descent, and having lived in Singapore for 20 years, Lee Man Fong (1913-1988) like no other realized that symbolism is highly valued in South-East Asian culture. In 1932 he moved to Jakarta. At that time he made paintings in a Chinese style. This painting was made in 1935. Lee Man Fong made many paintings with this subject, but pre-war pieces are rare.

When he lived in Jakarta, he was so respected as an artist that he was asked to become President Sukarno’s art advisor and editor of a 5-volume edition of his vast art collection, in 1964.

Furthermore, Lee Man Fong, after being granted a scholarship, had also lived in the Netherlands for 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 the etching below a very clear example of this is shown: a Dutch man eating herring!

In the early 1940s, he visited Bali, and produced an impressive series of oil paintings in a Western impressionistic style. In the course of his career, he went back again to his Chinese roots, painting in a much more calligraphic way.

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René de Visser

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