Lot 315
  • 315

Georgette Chen

600,000 - 800,000 HKD
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  • Georgette Chen
  • Landscape
  • Signed and dated '47
  • Oil on canvas
  • 65 by 81.5 cm.; 25 1/2 by 32 in.


Private Collection, Singapore


This work is in good condition overall. The canvas is clear and taut. There is light wear and handling on the edges and margins of the painting along with associated nicks and scuffs, which are consistent with the painting's age, but the paint layers are well-preserved. Examination under ultraviolet light exhibits scattered spots of retouching throughout the painting, particularly around the edges and margins of the painting, most notably the area of the sky on the upper middle, near the mountains and the bottom . Framed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“…I like painting from nature. The traditional Chinese technique does not suit me. Common subjects like potatoes and ordinary working people appeal to me. You can’t very well paint a portrait from imagination, can you? I also enjoy working outdoors. When I have decided upon the particular aspect of a landscape I wish to depict, I first make a number of sketches before selecting a suitable size of canvas. The painting is then executed often entirely on the spot.”


The Nanyang Movement (pg.106)

Singapore’s Cultural Revolution took place between the 1920s-1930s. It was in this period, in 1938, that the first art academy, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) was established in Singapore. The school was founded in order to introduce students to both Chinese and French art traditions and techniques, which this forte would later be referred to the Nanyang style.

The term Nanyang (南洋) conveys the philosophy, identity and culture of the Chinese who migrated to Southeast Asia. These immigrants were inspired to document the diversity and richness of their culture. Although there are several painters credited and committed to the Nanyang style but only five of them stood out most. These Founding Fathers are Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang, Georgette Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng. This season, Sotheby’s is pleased to present a selection of magnificent and iconic works by the most influential artists in Singapore. Introducing the Region’s response to the avant-garde amalgamation of Western and Chinese indigenous practices and philosophy.

One of the founding members of the Society of Chinese Artists, Chen Chong Swee (1910-1985) was one of the first to combine Chinese ink and brush painting together with Western techniques. Chen’s bold attempt at fusing Chinese artistic techniques with a Western elegance conveys sincerity and wisdom. Through his expressive application of ink, he is able to deliver a Western perspective in a Chinese painting presentation. Tree of a Thousand Years (Lot 306), is the artist’s self-portrait – demonstrating dexterity and vision. According to Chen the context of calligraphy is an important factor, which fortifies and enriches the meaning of his paintings. A shriveled and weathered tree of a thousand years proudly rooted on the peak of the mountain, with its delicate vines reciting the poetry of the elderly man.

Drawing you into his obsession of angles, Chen Wen Hsi (1908-1991) demonstrates his trademark and individuality. The artist's characteristic exploration of shapes and his depiction of the subject from numerous angles, contributes to its exquisite composition by communicating this piece as the artist's utmost exceptional work. In Still Life with Mangosteen (Lot 313), Chen illustrates the essence of modernity, expressing a clear link to the work of the French Impressionist, Paul Cézanne. The powerful brush strokes and color is an expression of the artist’s confidence and control. He too who painted with Chinese ink, was inspired with subjects such as animals and fruits. The Egret (Lot 303), Three Gibbons (Lot 309), and Custard Apples (Lot 308) are examples of Chen’s rich and rhythmical compositions and exquisitely painted subjects. The cubist-style of his Egret composed of fluid Chinese strokes, the playful Three Gibbons painted with tones of dynamism and elegance, and last but not least – the most unique subject of them all, the Custard Apples, capturing the graceful and yet staccato brushstrokes which imitates the swishing branches and leaves.

Unlike the other four artists, Liu Kang (1910-2004) was deeply influenced by Fauvism and Post-Impressionism. Having lived in Paris, Liu Kang was inspired by the works of Degas, Gauguin and Matisse. Performance (Lot 312) and Still Life (Lot 307) are characterized by the depth of color and composition of contours, although they are different in medium, they both depict local subject matter through the use of Western art techniques.

Georgette Chen (1907-1993) was also inspired by Post-Impressionism and experimented with Chinese methods of oil painting. Still-life, portraits and particularly landscapes were Georgette’s favorite subjects to work with. As France was her beloved second home, she was profoundly influenced by Paul Cezanne's and Maximilien Luce's works. Landscape (Lot 315) combines the artist’s coarse brush strokes and soft selection of hues, capturing the essence of Post-Impressionism partnered with a faint hint of Chinese intricacy. The artist's shapes, colors and texture immerse the viewer to the scenic compositions of her surroundings.

Of the Nanyang generation, Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983), was the most praised of all. Mosque in the Village (Lot 302), Riverside (Lot 306), and By the River (Lot 304) echoes the artist’s versatile and daring style. He combines the medium of Chinese ink on rice paper together with stylized Western cubist techniques. Cheong Soo Pieng adopts the local subject matter of idyllic and tasteful scenes of rural Malay. His works clearly reflect the importance of color, as they are the focal point of his themes. The background and foreground colors in Mosque in the Village are striking examples of the artist’s use of attractive and vibrant imbuement. His Chinese pictorial traditions are embodied through his rhythmic and fluid brush stokes which are clearly shown in Riverside and By the River. Over the years, Cheong Soo Pieng's charm and eloquence has been successfully depicted across the many mediums he has experimented with, particularly in oil and Chinese ink.

In the latter period of visual arts in Singapore, Lim Tze Ping (1923) carried on the legacy of Singapore’s finest living Chinese painter. Heavily surrounded by the growth of modernism and urbanization in Singapore, Lim documents the cultural diversity and transformation of the city. Recognized for his Singapore River and Chinatown subjects, Lim Tze Ping's Chinatown Festival (Lot 310) is one of the most sophisticated and detailed scenes painted with robust strokes of Chinese traditions on silk.

The Nanyang Movement shaped the style and philosophy of the artistry in Singapore. From Chinese ink to oil paintings, these artists continually mastered the balance of Eastern and Western traditions, representing the Nanyang styles and aesthetics while developing their identity in their artistic oeuvre.