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Lot 060

b. Sarawak, 1886 - d. Penang, 1962


Signed and dated 'MUN SEN 54' lower left
Watercolour on paper
49cm x 62.5cm

Private collection, Penang.

Yong Mun Sen Retrospective, Dr. Tan Chong Guan, The
Penang State Art Gallery, 1999; illustrated on page 47.

ESTIMATE  RM 15,000 - 22,000

In 1910, after witnessing a Japanese watercolour artist at work in his family’s plantation, coupled with the set of watercolours given by his Dutch neighbour, Yong Mun Sen started experimenting with watercolours and eventually became one of its greatest exponents. Later in Singapore, he continued sketching and painting whenever possible, making friends with artists like famed Singaporean watercolourist Lim Cheng Hoe along the way, who was an ardent admirer of his work. When Mun Sen moved to Penang in 1920, he instantly fell in love with the tropical island. His studio along Penang Road was a favourite meeting place for fellow artist friends including Tay Hooi Keat, Kuo Ju Ping, Khaw Sia, Lee Cheng Yong, Abdullah Ariff and other pioneering Malaysian artists. This group was later formed as the Penang Chinese Art Club in 1935.

The 1946 to 1955 period was Mun Sen’s most creative and productive years, where he brilliantly captured the everyday heroes of farmers, fishermen, blacksmiths and rubber tappers in their glorious and honest beauty. This piece titled Fixing Nets on the Beach is one fine example. Here, his quick brushstrokes deftly depict the movements of fishermen hauling in their catches in the nets. His swift and confident brushwork is a result of his understanding of both Chinese ink painting and Western Impressionism. Present in Mun Sen’s best works, the speed of the brush and the scarcity of strokes are evident here. Artist Lee Joo For described it best: “Very few artists in the world’s wide expanse can be found during the time of Mun Sen and before and even after, who can manifest the same combination of speed, economy and dexterity with his calligraphic brush in capturing the glories of nature as this humble man. With a spirit of daring and original selfexpression, Mun Sen can be confidently considered as one of those precious artists who most influenced the birth and growth of modern and contemporary Malaysian art.” The great Xu Bei-hong (1895-1953) described him as “the most outstanding figure in Malaysian art and one of the few top artists in the tropics.” Dubbed ‘The Father of Malaysian Art’ by many, Mun Sen was the vice president of the Singapore Society of Chinese Artists in 1936. He was given memorial exhibitions in Singapore (1966), Galeri 11, Kuala Lumpur (1966), the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (1972) and the Penang State Art Gallery (PSAG, 1972). In 1999, the PSAG presented him a retrospective.

Yong Mun Sen Retrospective, Dr. Tan Chee Khuan, The Penang State Art Gallery, 1999.
Social Responsibility in Art Criticism, Dr. Tan Chee Khuan, 1998.