LEE CHENG YONG
b. China, 1913 - d. Penang, 1974
IN THE WOODS, c.1950s
Signed ‘CY’ lower left
Oil on board
50cm x 44cm
Private collection, Penang.
Lee Cheng Yong Retrospective, Penang State Art Gallery, 1996; illustrated on page 26.
ESTIMATE RM 16,000 - 25,000
PRICE REALISED RM 49,500
Lee Cheng Yong’s flair as a painter, sculptor, and artist is evident in his body of works, which consist of paintings depicting landscapes, portraits, still life and semi-abstract figures. A theme favoured most by the artist in his paintings is the female figure. This piece in particular pays homage to the Tahitian style of Gaugain, a quality that is almost unseen in the works of the likes of Cheong Soo Pieng whose signature style is of elongated limbs and Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng’s distended forms and tilted heads.
This piece depicts a woman carrying a water cauldron resting on her head with a wooden stick in her left hand, whilst another woman follows suit. Both women possess muscular physique while retaining gracefulness apparent from the curves of their bodies. The laborious act with basic attire and natural setting is as primeval as the manner in which it is rendered. A cleverly composed and a well-executed painting, it falls into the art of Nanyang – a romanticised look at the Southern Seas paradise of the then unexplored hinterland of Malaya by the hordes of then émigré artists from China.
Lee Cheng Yong studied at Sin Hwa Art Academy (later known as the Shanghai Academy of Fine Art) in 1927 and held his first solo exhibition at the Philomatic Union in Acheen Street, Penang in 1932 while his next was in 1960 at the Chin Kang Association in Macalister Road in Penang. He formed the Penang Chinese Art Club in 1935 and was elected its first president. He was honoured with the Lee Cheng Yong Memorial exhibition by the Penang State Art Gallery in 1996. Although Lee Cheng Yong left copious works on various subjects in various media indicating his versatility, he was also known as a dedicated art teacher at the Chung Ling High School. He fostered generations of star students such as Chong Hon Fatt and Chai Chuan Jin. He was prodigious mostly in oils, with works in the Post-Impressionist mould. Besides paintings, he had also done sculptures and murals. His works are collected in among others, the Fukuoka Art Museum and the Singapore Art Museum.
A Tribute to Lee Cheng Yong, The Art Gallery, 2001.
Lee Cheng Yong Memorial, Penang State Art Gallery, 1996.
Eight Pioneers of Malaysian Art (With Supplement on Peter Harris), Dato' Dr. Tan Chee Khuan, Penang State Art Gallery, 2013.