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Lot 082

b. China, 1912 – d. Singapore, 1979

SEWING, Undated

Pastel on paper
44cm x 29cm

Private collection, Penang; acquired through artist's family.

Lim Cheng Hoe Retrospective 1986, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore, 1986; illustrated on page 24.

ESTIMATE  RM 12,000 - 16,000

Lim Cheng Hoe is the only anointed Singapore art pioneer who did not have formal art education, but that is not to detract from his accomplished skills, especially as a plein air artist in watercolours. He is known for his landscapes of Singapore from Kampung Penjuru to the Singapore River - his favourite sketching spot - so much so that he was referred to as a leading light of the Singapore River Artists. His painting excursions with friends were on Sundays, meeting first at the Red House in Bras Basah Road. Cheng Hoe rarely painted in pastels, and when he did, it was of portraits. This work was among 260 works done from 1934 to 1973, which were shown in his Retrospective at the Singapore Art Museum.

This enchanting piece is one of the very few works by the artist to portray a figure in a domestic act. It shows a woman with well coiffured hair (sanggul) tied in a bun at the back, engrossed in sewing. One notices her well-nourished features, her black jade bracelet on her left hand and the satin sheen of her amah (nanny)-like samfu (white tops and black pyjama pants). In Cheng Hoe’s 1986 Retrospective, the curator Constance Sheares wrote: “The artist transformed by virtue of his visual conceptions the world that surrounded him – an indifferent if not alien world – into a hospitable world … a friendly and vivacious world with which we can easily identify.”

Lim Cheng Hoe took informal and irregular Saturday classes under Richard Walker, his secondary-school art teacher at Raffles Institution, Singapore from 1932 to 1935. When young, he was already recognised and awarded the Lim Boon Keng Gold medal in 1927 and the Best Work in Design and Painting Class in school in 1930. His parents had migrated to Singapore from China in 1919. He worked in the Singapore Public Utilities Board and retired as chief clerk. He was a founding member of the Singapore Watercolour Society (SWS) in 1969. In 1968, he was awarded the Singapore National Day Long Service Medal. He stopped painting in 1973 after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. In 1988, the SWS organised a posthumous exhibition for him.