Chinese painter Eric Forlee was born in Kowing Ton, China. Eric’s paintings of African wildlife continue to express his zeal for life and independence, and he will always relish the challenge of depicting the “Symphony” he calls Africa.
From an early age, he loved art, teaching himself to draw the objects and scenes around him. Eric also was attracted to picture books about the African continent, where his father, whom he had never met, lived. Unfortunately, at age 14, Eric was no longer permitted draw and paint: artistic activities were now reserved exclusively for the children of privileged, upper-ranking communist party members. Additionally, the Chinese government listed Eric as an “enemy of the state”, because his parents lived in South Africa. At age 19, Eric’s situation worsened- because his family had once owned land in China, he was condemned to a labor camp during Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution.
After surviving five years in the camp, Eric managed a highly dangerous escape to Hong Kong. Seven years later, he had saved enough money to move to South Africa and reunite with his parents. Finally, after one more year, Forlee moved himself and his family to Harare, Zimbabwe.
Eric’s first encounter with the Serengeti transformed his life- he filled dozens of sketchbooks during a yearlong trek. Park managers counseled him on the enormous variety of wildlife and landscapes. Their critiques proved highly valuable when Eric developed his sketches into striking oil paintings, filled with the spirit of living African savanna. No contrast could be more pronounced than the years of Eric’s bleak imprisonment in China and the bountiful, unrestrained African wildlife.
In 1982, Eric sold his first landscape painting. Near immediate demand for his work allowed him to dedicate all his time to art. The next year, Eric sold his first wildlife painting and has continued with this subject ever since. Although Eric’s work was highly sought after in Zimbabwe (even collected by its former president), political and economic turmoil eventually forced him to flee the country that had given him so much. Finally, in 1998 Eric became a United States citizen, making his home in Texas.