A shawl, adorned with roses, drapes softly across Dr. Tan’s bust, which frames her delicate silhouette. Her side profile faces the viewer as she looks into the distance, and her gentle, warming gaze emanates throughout the entire frame. Using only shadowing and shading techniques to delineate the contours of her face, Chen carves out a figure of beauty and elegance, and captures a brief moment with one of Singapore’s largest beacons of progression. Lending from Western and Chinese modes of themes and expression, Chen demonstrates her skilled mastery of the “Nanyang style”, as she traces the waves of Dr. Tan’s hair with calligraphy like strokes. The incorporation of greys and whites in the lustrous sea of raven furthers Dr. Tan’s calming and sophisticated disposition, as Chen makes clear that this is not a woman of sheer vanity. Looking beyond the captivating aesthetics of Portrait of Dr Nalla Tan, Chen’s portrayal of Dr. Tan’s unadulterated grace and poise is especially affectionate, and this present lot marks an undeclared collaboration between two of Singapore’s most prominent women in history.
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