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 Manfong Lee  (1913 - 1988)

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Lived/Active: Indonesia/China      Known for: genre, human activity, animals

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Lee Man Fong (November 14, 1913 - April 3, 1988) was a painter born in Guangzhou, China. His father, a merchant with ten children, brought him to Singapore. When his father died in 1930, Man Fong had to work hard to earn a living for his mother and siblings using his skill in painting ads and artwork. However, that was not enough for him.

In 1932, he moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. The tension between nationalist groups such as Persagi (Persatuan Ahli-ahli Gambar Indonesia, or Association of Indonesian Draughtsmans) and Indische-Holland kunstkring community stimulated him.  In 1942, Man Fong was jailed because of his opposition to Japanese colonialism in Indonesia. After six months in jail, Takahashi Masao helped him gain freedom. This Japanese officer was interested in his artistic potential.

In 1946, President Sukarno heard about him when Fong had his solo exhibition in Jakarta. Sukarno then knew that Man Fong was given Malino scholarship from Van Mook, the Netherland government.  In Europe, many of his exhibitions were successful. He briefly returned to Indonesia, and went back to held exhibitions from Den Haag to Paris. In 1952 he returned to Jakarta. The visit from Sukarno and Dullah, the official palace painter at that time, encouraged him to established Yin Hua in 1955. Yin Hua is an organization of Chinese painter that had its office in Lokasari Street, Jakarta. Many art exhibitions were organized by Yin Hua. In 1956, Yin Hua was invited to held exhibition in China.

Relationship between Sukarno and Man Fong was improved. His beautiful and perfect works matched with Sukarno's taste.  For him, Man Fong's art was an escape from revolutionary spirit. Sukarno didn't have any particular preference theme in art. Only ten percent of all of his collection had nationalism theme. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," is his remark about his taste on art. Therefore, when Dullah suggested him to appoint Man Fong as the next presidential painter, Sukarno agreed it without hesitance.

Kompas, June 1, 2001, an article by Agus Dermawan T.

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