Nature was the prime source of inspiration for founder René Lalique. His bold endeavour to capture and magnify the elementary sparks of life was a thread running through his work, almost a school in itself. Though separated by some 130 years and a continent, the Chinese artist Han Meilin draws the same breath of inspiration. A master revered at home and an ambassador of beauty to the rest of the world, Han Meilin is a distinguished UNESCO Artist of Peace.
Moulded by the great Chinese traditions he learned travelling the country, Han Meilin has worked for more than 60 years in many fields of artistic expression, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, writing, ceramics, animation and design. Whatever the artist turns his hand to, he brings his own touch and a taste for simplicity, for rounded figures that are immediately recognizable and for lively and supple artistic gestures.
In 2019, to celebrate 55 years of Franco-Chinese relations, it seemed natural for Lalique to open the doors of its crystal works and place the expertise of its master craftsmen at the service of this energetic and inquisitive artist. In choosing to create effigies of pandas, the ultimate symbols of the bonds that link China and France, Han Meilin has taken to the extraordinary medium of crystal with a rare delicacy of touch.
There is a sense of tenderness that emanates from his rounded, mischievous figures. He captures a moment of life in the wild, a grooming gesture or a frolic on the ground. His gaze is open, the eyes soft and sparkling. The newborn from the Lalique crystal factory, Yuan-Yuan and Meng-Meng, a seated male and a prone female, are both products of Han Meilin’s fertile imagination. With an innocence that belies his 82 years, the Chinese artist marvels at the world through the eyes of a child. He grooms, sketches and models animals for the most part: dogs, cats, tigers, monkeys and the like. He draws his inspiration from a solid grounding in traditional Chinese culture, ranging from his fascination with ancient characters to cave painting, by way of folklore, traditional textiles and clay sculpture. “The national character is the root of my work,” says the artist who has spent several decades collecting inscriptions, marks and symbols from all over China.
A fragile species, mentioned in ancient Chinese texts 3000 years ago, the panda reigns majestically over Han Meilin’s artistic repertoire. In addition to an ink drawing that served as an effigy for a stamp issued in China, the artist has no fewer than twelve young specimens in his bestiary – sculpted, lying down or seated. In 2019, the savoir-faire of Lalique’s artisans, enabled him to fashion two of his beasts in pure crystal. Offered as diplomatic gifts in token of friendship since the Tang dynasty, the panda is the ultimate symbol of the bonds that link China and France.
Born in China in 1936 in the province of Shandong, Han Meilin is a true all-rounder who has pursued his vocation with passion for more than 60 years. This complete master artist also teaches painting, calligraphy, ceramics and the history of the visual arts. From the very beginning, Han Meilin has drawn his inspiration from the traditions and folklore of his native country, which pays homage to him on “Han Meilin Day”, inaugurated on 21 December 2013. Creator of the mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Han Meilin has exhibited his calligraphy and sculpture all over the world. He has received multiple honours, including being appointed a UNESCO Artist of Peace in 2015, becoming the first Chinese artist to get this recognition.