Lot 132
  • 132

Georgette Chen

800,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
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  • Georgette Chen
  • Paysage de Chine avec Sampans (China Landscape with Sampans)
  • Signed
  • Oil on canvas
  • 92 by 92 cm.; 36 1/4 by 36 1/4 in.
  • Executed CIRCA 1950s


Private Collection, Geneva (Acquired in the 1980s)
Thence by descent to the Present Owner



The work is in good condition overall, as is the canvas, which is clear and taut. There is light wear and handling around the edges of the painting, predominantly on the right margin. Upon close observation, light creases are evident near the boat in the center of the canvas, along with a gentle undulation on the top middle margin. Examination under ultraviolet light shows no evidence of restoration. 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

“The dominant character of Georgette Chen’s work as a whole comes from her intense response to nature combined with a detachment… The directness and honesty of her work makes it unique today. It is the expression of her innate and unrationalised joy in nature.”
- Constance Sheares1
Georgette Chen is one of the most celebrated artists from the Nanyang art movement. The only female in this group of artists, she was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1985, honoring Chen’s legacy as one of the most inspiring Nanyang artists in Singapore. Greatly influenced by the Modernist Art movement, she showed special interest in the formal elements of fin-de-siecle art movement, also known as Post-Impressionism. 

Similar with many of the Nanyang artists from her generation, Chen wanted for the paintings to be a visceral representation of the outside environment. She was particularly charmed by the seaside, and bodies of water were a reoccurring motif throughout her oeuvre. Many of her paintings allude to the tones favored by the Post-Impressionist and Fauves movements. This is most evident in her use of light, and choice of composition, for “… it was among French tutors that she perfected her techniques of using the brush and the palette, which she has since applied to painting her country and the Chinese people… Everything in the picture is Chinese except the medium and technique which is Western.”2

The years from 1949 to 1980 were the most creative period from the artist’s career. She had established herself as an equal amongst the male-oriented Nanyang artists, while finessing her compositions, styles and tones (Fig. 1- Fig. 3). Her works created in the 1950s reflect a slight change, with the colors more subtle and quieter in tone. Depicting the daily lives of the community, Chen carefully composed her scenic landscapes within a framework that elegantly depicted the world around her.

Executed in the 1950s, Paysage de Chine avec Sampans (China Landscape with Sampans) employs quick brushstrokes, with a play of light and shadows to enhance the composition. Chen’s visual representation of her natural environment suggests a depth and desire to preserve the beauty of the reflection, and soft hues of the landscape. The dexterity and freedom brings to mind a child-like intuition which the Fauvists highly valued. The artist Liu Kang and friend of the artist once said, “… [Georgette’s paintings] evokes an immediate response through its glittering waves and sailing boats.”3

The present painting suggests pure mastery of the art form. Her representation of the Southeast Asian coastline is reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhône (Fig. 4), Paul Signac’s The Port of Saint Tropez (Fig. 5), and Andre Derian’s Le Sechage des Voiles (The Drying Sails) (Fig.6). Paintings inspired by the shores of Southeast Asia, and sought to render the beauty of the landscape within the canvas. The artist described it as such: “I like painting from nature. The traditional Chinese technique does not suit me… I like working outdoors. When I have decided upon the particular aspect of a landscape I wish to depict, [the] painting is then executed often entirely on the spot.”4

1 Constance Sheares, Pioneer Artists of Singapore: Georgette Chen Retrospective 1985, Ministry of Community Development and the National Museum, Singpaore, 1985, p. 6
2 Jane Chia, Georgette Chen, Singapore Art Museum, 1997, Singapore, p. 13

3 Liu Kang, Pioneer Artist of Singapore: Georgette Chen Retrospective 1985, Ministry of Community Development and the National Museum, Singpaore, 1985, p.

4 Tan Tee Chie, Pioneer Artist of Singapore: Georgette Chen Retrospective 1985, Ministry of Community Development and the National Museum, Singpaore, 1985, p. 12-13